Mary Poppins Begins London Previews Dec. 6

News   Mary Poppins Begins London Previews Dec. 6
 
The builders were still toiling away at the end of the preceding week to complete owner Cameron Mackintosh’s extensive renovation of London’s Prince Edward Theatre, but they knew they had to finish and get out by December 6 — the date the venue’s new show, Mary Poppins, has its first preview.

And, this isn’t just any new show. It’s one of the most eagerly awaited musicals of the year (alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White and Mel Brooks’ The Producers, which have both already opened to good business).

Not only is Poppins drawn from a well-loved series of books by Pamela Travers and an iconic 1964 film, it’s also the result of a collaboration between two of the world’s biggest producers. Disney, in the shape of Thomas Schumacher, and Mackintosh joined forces after a long-standing impasse in negotiations — the Brit owned the rights to the books, the Americans had the movie’s songs.

In the event, the Sherman Brothers’ songs have been bolstered by six new numbers from the song-writing team of George Styles and Anthony Drewe (they wrote the musicals The Fix and the Olivier Award-winning Honk!), who have also tinkered with the existing catalogue. Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park,” “Vanity Fair”) wrote the book, partly based on Mackintosh’s own synopsis.

The cast is headed by Laura Michelle Kelly, the 20-something starlet who starred in the third cast of Mackintosh’s production of My Fair Lady as well as the current Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. Gavin Lee plays Bert, with Linzi Hately as Mrs. Banks and David Haig as Mr. Banks. Rosemary Ashe — who played another sinister character in another Mackintosh show, The Witches of Eastwick — is the nasty nanny, Miss Andrew.

Richard Eyre directs, with Matthew Bourne co-directing and choreographing and Stephen Mear co-choreographing. Lighting is by Howard Harrison, set and costume designs by Bob Crowley, sound design by Andrew Bruce and orchestrations by William David Brohn. Nick Davies is the musical director, David Caddick the musical supervisor. The show officially opens Dec. 15.

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