London's Mary Poppins Sets Age Limits for Theatregoers

By James Inverne
December 10, 2004

Controversy has been whipped up around the new Mary Poppins musical with the front page of Britain’s Daily Mail declaring that the show’s organizers have just unveiled “a shock for the under-sevens.”



Producers Cameron Mackintosh and Disney’s Thomas Schumacher have been saying for months that their stage version of Mary Poppins is not simply a replica of the famous movie. Now, says the Mail, they’ve made that point abundantly clear by banning those under the age of three and recommending that parents should think twice before taking any child under the age of seven to see the show.

The decision was been taken because the show’s tone incorporates much from Pamela Travers’ books as well as the film. And, not only did Travers claim that her writing was aimed as much at grown-ups as at children, her books have far darker overtones than the Disney movie. The children go through some frightening experiences (in one story young Jane is tempted to join a scene in a porcelain bowl, only to find that its characters want to keep her trapped there forever), and Poppins herself is a stern nanny who unnerves her charges as much as they love her.

One scene in particular — which cannot be revealed until the show opens — is thought to have caused the decision as it might scare very young theatregoers. Not that the musical abandons the merry world of the film altogether — far from it. Many of the Sherman Brothers songs are still there, from "Feed the Birds" to "Spoonful of Sugar," albeit sometimes in different settings.

A source connected with the show told Playbill On-Line that the decision is neither new, nor unusual. Other shows, such as The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum and His Dark Materials at the National Theatre, also carry warnings. “We discovered from playing the show in Bristol that we had to put out guidelines,” says the source. “A lot of people think this is like the movie, which is only 90 minutes long and very suitable for very young children. The show is nearly three hours, and tiny little tots want to go out, they want to go to the toilet or to run around, and they cause mayhem for the rest of the audience. But the Mail has sensationalized the story; the guidelines have been on the website for ages, and anyone who phones the box office is advised about them.”

Any parents who have bought tickets for children under three will be given a full refund. For more information, call (0)870 850 9191.