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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Mary Poppins (1964)

Updated: Apr 6

I had a lot of feelings going into this one. First and foremost, excitement because this has always been one of my favorite "play in the background while I work on XYZ" movies and I've missed it in the 3.5(!) years I've been doing this project. I was angsty because this film for children is 2.5 hours long (but honestly, it flew by; I needn't have woried). But also I was apprehensive because I have so detested the tangential Mary Poppins films Disney has put out in the last 10 or so years. Saving Mr. Banks, the stage show, and Mary Poppins Return make me angry. But this isn't the place for that. (I do love Sherri Bobbins, though, who is definitely an original creation, like Rickey Rouse. Or Monald Muck.)


This movie is magic. Full stop. Julie Andrews is peerless. Dick Van Dyke is a charisma machine. The kids are So Good and I feel badly that I ignored them the first forty years of my life. Glynis Johns is a master of what she does, even when she's given so little to work with, she works it.


I never clocked before tonight that most of Mary's music is written in 3/4 or 6/8 (nice, flowy waltzes) while Mr. Banks is 2/4 (hard marches). The Sherman Brothers are geniuses and they made this film what it is. Sorry, P.L. Travers.


This film is low key anti-capitalist and anti-colonialist and I love it for that. And I love that it's getting a disclaimer for the inclusion of a racial slur from the Boer War. I have mixed feelings about the fox in the fox hunt being Irish. A little on the nose.


The choreography is joyful. How can you watch it without smiling?



Mostly in this viewing, though, I'm thinking about Mary and what an ICON she is. She is everything I want to be as a woman.

  • Unbothered

  • Kind but extremely firm

  • Rosy cheeks. "Obviously." (I hate my rosy cheeks. I long to get to her "obviously" attitude.)

  • Puts up with zero nonsense from men

  • BOUNDARIES AT WORK!

  • Zero hesitation is discussing her wages with her employer

  • PUTS HER EMPLOYER ON A TRIAL PERIOD BEFORE SHE SIGNS ON!

  • Cares deeply about those around her but doesn't let those feelings eclipse her mental health and safety

  • Everything I wasn't for most of my life

  • Obviously very well hydrated with excellent skincare

  • A really great relationship with her own appearance (homeslice loves a mirror and what she sees in it)


When we were in Disney World just before the pandemic, Mary Poppins walked by us in her Jolly Holiday dress (my absolute favorite number and costume) and I started quietly squealing and crying. Ben tried to get me to talk to her, at least to tell her I loved her dress, but I couldn't. She was too fabulous. It may sound silly but I really regret not saying something. So I'll say it here: Mary Poppins, you've made my life better by inspiring me to be better. Thank you.


Also, where do I find 60 (?!) year old lipstick colors because every single one is a winner.


Sangin'.




Takeaways:

-I really struggled to come up with something for this endlessly creative movie. I do find that the more a movie means to me, the more I struggle with it. It ultimately boils down to being too precious about it. Wanting to do right by it. I watched it three times this week trying to come up with something. I had ideas, of course, but they all felt very Try Hard. I was reaching and not stretching, and that was something I was not going to do for this film. During the third viewing, I thought, "gosh, wouldn't it be nice if I could just sing something from it and call it a day?" And as I entertained that, I got a little nauseous with fear and started crying. So I knew that singing is what I had to do. This was Thursday night. I had Friday off and thought (in a vain attempt to avoid what I needed to do), "If Diane (my voice teacher I haven't studied with in years) has an opening tomorrow afternoon, I'll do it." And lo, she did. And honestly, I could write a whole blog just about Diane being the Mary Poppins of my life. I'm so grateful she had time for me and I'm so glad that I decided to see her and I don't know that I'm glad I recorded this, but it was a necessary part of the healing journey that is this project.

-Of all the arts practices I've had, there is not one that I am more studied or decorated in than vocal performance. I won awards, I performed, I practiced. I went to college with the intention of becoming a voice teacher like Diane. And then, in my first semester, so many things crumbled around me, and singing felt alien. I liked doing it still, but there were so many strange attitudes around my singing (mostly from my parents) that I was no longer sure I was doing it for me. When I tell my therapist I feel the need to perform perfectly, singing exemplifies it. I was the singer in school, at church, in the family. It was what I did and who I was and YET. I could never be enough with it. It was always a cause of consternation. A point of comparison with everyone around me that I might have bonded with over singing. Other people who sang in public joyfully and proudly were deemed as "doing it for attention" and something to look down on. So how could I sing in public? Worse, when I realized that I'm really no good on stage. Which isn't a knock to me. How can I be when I am so tense and focused on perfection? I could barely do musical theater in high school because it was fun and loose and I liked classical music because I could get it right. Ugh. I could go on and on.

-Long story short (too late!): this is weirdly the most vulnerable I've been in the course of this blog and I am terrified to post it. There's something comforting in doing things I'm not studied in because there's an air of "look at how brave I am trying something new!" and this is decidedly not that. I should be able to get this right. I hope I got this right.

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