Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mary Poppins

We went to go see the new musical version of Mary Poppins in the West End, with our two friends who were visiting from the States. It's the latest in the series of Disney movies reworked as musicals, in the vein of The Lion King and Beauty in the Beast. I haven't seen either of those two, but I gather that Mary Poppins is more in line with Beauty in the Beast, in that is a fairly straightforward, non-Taymor-ized adaptation.

My review? In short, it was dreadful. Perfectly dreadful. A treacly mishmash of Disney dreck, unconvincing Andrew Loyd Webber-style techno gizmos, and some of the worst singing I have ever heard by supposed professionals. Granted, an understudy was singing Bert's role, which can throw things off, but in a mainstream West End musical that has been open for a few months, that should not be an excuse. And not only was the performance amateurish, the script was dreadful, a complete disaster. The pseudo-Anglican-mysticism of the books and the movie were replaced with miserably sentimental muck. My favorite number from the movie, "Feed the Birds", was ruined. In the end, when Mary Poppins opened her umbrella and floated out over the audience, I wanted to retch. And let it be known that I have no problem with popular culture, or even with trash. My love for Britney Spears is completely genuine, I watch Friends re-runs nightly, and I read Defamer religiously. Mary Poppins was just bad. Bad, bad, bad.

My quandary, however, is not that the show was bad. My problem is that everyone loved it. Not in the applause-inflation sort of way that characterizes a lot of shows nowadays, with the automatic standing ovation every five minutes, but real, genuine love for the show. Occasionally at the end of a number, you could see everyone just lurching half out of their seats with appreciation, shouting bravo with glee. This included literally everyone in the theater, including my two friends from college. (Mary is on my side, thank god.) My two friends are very intelligent people, very sophisticated. They are, respectively, a linguist and an astrophysicist, for god's sake. I have known them for a long time, and have had many sophisticated aesthetic discussions with them. My former roommate, whom I love dearly, proclaimed it the best musical she has ever seen.

So I am left with the conclusion that there is something very wrong with me. Have I been so thoroughly disciplined by graduate school that I am no longer capable of being swept away in what seems to be a magical experience for everyone else? Has a summer's worth of reading Adorno, Marx, and Goehr completely corrupted me? Am I now so irredeemably academic that I will never know happiness again?

No, I just think everyone else is crazy.


Violet Vixen said...

Notwithstanding your opinions about Mary Poppins, I do think that grad school does warp the brain in weird ways. I recently decided that both Harry Potter and Terry Pratchett's new novel, A Hat Full of Sky bore a striking resemblance to my relationship with my advisor.

bbound said...

hmm...I haven't read the Pratchett, but I see your point re: Harry Potter. So I guess the question is...who is Snape?