mon 18/03/2019

CD: Mary Poppins Returns - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mary Poppins Returns - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

CD: Mary Poppins Returns - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

One of Disney's untouchables makes it through an unwanted regeneration looking surprisingly OK

A truckload of sugar but the medicine goes down

This is a soundtrack with vast shoes to fill. Frozen, The Lion King and Aladdin may be the best-selling Disney soundtracks but, alongside The Jungle Book, the original 1964 Mary Poppins has the most beloved array of songs. It takes chutzpah to try and match a set that includes such childhood standards as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and “A Spoonful of Sugar”. That the music from Mary Poppins Returns makes a spirited and expertly calibrated attempt is a nice surprise.

The man who took on what could have been a poisoned chalice is Hollywood showbiz orchestration kingpin Marc Shaiman (Google him – he really is!) alongside lyrical protégé Scott Wittman. Their work is slick, sometimes too slick. But what were you expecting? It’s Disney! It’s Mary Poppins! At Christmas! Saccharine explodes all over everything like sonic popping candy.

Dick Van Dyke turns up for a cameo, firing out a tasty couplet at 92 years of age

Most of the singing is handled by the film’s two leads. Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins has an OTT ultra-posh Julie Andrews accent, except for the sprightly “A Cover is Not the Book” wherein she hams her best Audrey Hepburn-in-My Fair Lady Cockney, while Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Broadway sensation behind Hamilton, is a new Dick Van Dyke sort. Both can sing and give colourful performances. Meryl Streep’s also on hand for a German-accented big band jazz vamp, “Turning Turtle”, which sounds like a pastiche of something from Cabaret.

Stylistically, it all stays in the shoes of the Sherman Brothers 1964 originals. It would have been invigorating and added spice if they'd allowed a couple of numbers to adventure somewhere new, somewhere surprising. Once I accepted, on a second and third listen, that this wasn’t going to happen, I belted up to be hosed down with epically orchestrated liquid sentiment, then all was well.

The film’s story glimmers through. It appears to be one of loss, nostalgia and self-affirmation through sheerest fantasy. Relentlessly jaunty and mischievously juvenile, songs such as “Can You Imagine That”, “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and, especially, the Lewis Carroll-ian vaudeville jauntiness of “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” are relentlessly ebullient, while, if I’ve pinned it right, “The Place Where Lost Things Go”, could open a few tear ducts at the cinema.

A couple of truly venerable old hands appear. Angela Lansbury, of Disney’s similar 1971 flick Bedknobs and Broomsticks and now 93, energetically gives her all on “Nowhere To Go But Up” while the original faux-Cockney chimney sweep, Dick Van Dyke turns up for a cameo, firing out a tasty couplet at 92 years of age; “So when they told you that you’re finished and your chance to dance is done/That’s the time to stand, to strike up the band, and tell ‘em that you’ve just begun!”

The latter half of the album contains the film’s instrumental score, some of which, such as the explosive “Off to Topsy’s”, has a Henry Mancini-esque pizzaz. But it’s the songs people may return to. Whether they do or not is down to the film's ability to carry them into the hearts of posterity, to make them part of lazy family bank holiday afternoons ever-after. In and off themselves, they’ve made a decent start of it.

Below: listen to "The Royal Doulton Music Hall" from the soundtrack to Mary Poppins Returns

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