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Mary Poppins’ True Magic Lies in Jewish Music (and Bette Midler Agrees)

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I admit it: I was a bit weary when I first found out about Mary Poppins Returns, the Mary Poppins sequel that’s coming out later this year. My videotape (remember those?!) of the 1964 original movie was one of my most precious possessions as a child.

More than anything, I loved the movie’s infectious soundtrack. Glynis Johns’ performance of “Sister Suffragette” was perhaps my first indoctrination into feminism. I also had a terrible crush on Dick Van Dyke’s character, Bert, whose terrible accent I was luckily too young to discern. I was enchanted by his goofy duets with Julie Andrews in “Jolly Holiday” and “Chim Chim Cheeree.” I still think one of the most moving songs ever written is “Feed the Birds” — as a kid, I would hold back tears whenever the song came up towards the end of the movie.

The Sherman brothers’ magical songs are truly what makes the movie, and both audiences and critics agreed, which is why they Richard and Robert Sherman  won two Grammys and two Academy Awards for their masterful score. They also lent their skills to some of my other favorite Disney musicals, including The Jungle Book and The Aristocats. 

It’s a joy, then, to find out that this newest installment will also have a wonderfully talented Jewish composer at its helm. Marc Shaiman — the Emmy- and Tony award-winning composer who’s worked on the soundtrack of iconic movies like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally — created the soundtrack, along with his frequent collaborator Scott Wittman. Shaiman and Wittman are also the geniuses behind the brilliant songs of the Hairspray musical (!!!).

The little glimpse of the soundtrack we get in the movie trailer is already sending shivers up my spine. Emily Blunt actually sings quite as wonderfully as Julie Andrews — just watch her in Into the Woods:

The movie has a delightful cast, with Lin-Manuel Miranda (my current man-crush!) takes on the role of Bert’s young apprentice; Ben Wishaw as a grown-up Michael Banks; and Meryl Streep who will be playing Mary Poppins’ quirky cousin. Then there’s the much-awaited return of Julie Andrews (as the Banks family housekeeper) and Dick Van Dyke (Mr. Dawes Jr) to the franchise.

None other than Bette Midler has already given the movie her seal of approval.

Unfortunately, us simple people will have to wait until December for the movie’s premiere. And this time around, as a mom, I can’t wait to have more magical movie music to share with my kid.

Though, of course, I will make him watch the first film, too. In fact, “Feed the Birds” is already one of the songs I use to sing him to sleep.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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