Book Review: “Practically Poppins in Every Way” by Jeff Kurtti

Hi everyone!

We received the book “Practically Poppins in Every Way: A Magical Carpetbag of Countless Wonders” by prolific author Jeff Kurtti to review. This is the third book by Kurtti this year, I posted reviews of the wonderful “From All of Us to All of You The Disney Christmas Card” and “Travels with Walt Disney: A Photographic Voyage Around the World“. While the cover shows Emily Blunt as the new face of the title character from the upcoming film Mary Poppins Returns, the book dedicates large sections to the original movie and the new one, and more adaptations as well.

The book cover itself is bold and colorful, with a nice texture. The dust cover art is the same as the book underneath both front and back. It is a really nicely sized book, think Don Hahn’s Yesterday’s Tomorrow: Disney’s Magical Mid-Century as far as height. It would go nicely on a coffee table. It is over 200 pages and includes a variety of artwork, photos and such.

Disney Theatrical president Thomas Schumacher writes the foreward, noting a variety of actors who have stepped in the shoes of Mary Poppins – most notably Julie Andrews, but also Emily Blunt, Mary Wickes (television), and Laura Michelle Kelly and Ashley Brown (West End and Broadway). He also talks admiringly about the story.

Director Rob Marshall writes the introduction. Mary Poppins was the first movie he saw as a child, and he talks about the team he assembled to create the film.

The book very quickly addresses the new film in terms of it not being a remake, saying there is a “balance between respect and innovation” with Marshall saying that a “‘remake’ never crossed our minds”. In fact, even though Marshall thought about a film, he was hesitant because of the original. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman were brought in to create new music (I just saw them at a Disney D23 presentation and the songs are really incredible!). The story itself takes place twenty-five years after the original film. The original books were set in the Great Depression (or “Great Slump” in UK terms) era, but the first movie was set before that to create a more “idealistic time”.  There is a quote in the book that could also have applied to the film Christopher Robin, which I highly recommend. Marshall says, “There’s a theme that runs through the books, that as adults get older, they forget, and it’s very easy to become cynical and jaded and not believe in things”.

There are changes as far as tone in the new film versus the original. Just for one example, P.L. Travers didn’t like that the Banks’ house was opulent. The home in this version is not – Cherry Tree Lane looks like a real street, and the houses on it are not as fancy.

There are profiles on actors Emily Blunt, Lin Manuel Miranda and a number of the other actors in the film, including Mary Poppins legend Dick Van Dyke, who plays Mr. Dawes, Jr. in a cameo and Angela Lansbury, who also has a cameo as the Balloon Lady.

The book also talks about the television production that I didn’t even know existed with Mary Wickes – apparently she was the first to step into the role. The chapter is an interesting one, as she had hoped to play the role again sometime.

There is a short chapter on Saving Mr. Banks before launching into the beloved film from 1964. There is talk about the history before it was created, about the Sherman brothers Richard and Robert bringing the characters to life with song, and of course the animation because there was so much at play in the original – live action, animation, music. It was groundbreaking.

Casting is discussed, with Julie Andrews not being the original choice for the film. There are profiles on the stars of the iconic movie.

Practically Poppins in Every Way: A Magical Carpetbag of Countless Wonders is a lovely book for anyone interested in the character of Mary Poppins and I only touched on parts of it. There is history, artwork, photos and a lot of interesting stories about how the various adaptations were created. It will make a great gift for the holiday season or for yourself.