2016-2017 Season,  Mary Poppins

The Magic In Imagination


by Ting Chun Chang, dramaturg

Mary Poppins snapped her fingers again, ready to “educate” the kids! In the world of Mary Poppins we see magic everywhere, However, how to show that magic is a crucial key for the design team. As it is the number one topic we have been talking about in the production meetings, before the show starts, I would like to give a you broad sense of how each designer has chosen to dive into this magic world.

At the beginning of the process, we created a magic moment list. This was a guide for the production team. We talked about the magical moments in other productions, movies and how these moments were done. In the meantime, the designers figured out who would be in charge of each moment. For example, we choose to let our projection effects designer, Ben Unguren, explore some images that could be done through projector, such as the instantaneous changes in the nursery and creating the colors in the park.

Costume designer, Rory Scanlon analyzed the relationship between the characters in the family and the relationship between Mary and Mr. Banks and Mary and Bert, and then looked for symbolic ways to reveal things about Mary’s character. For example, for him, Mary is the one who bring joy and light to the family. When you watch the show, see if you can you tell how that is shown through the costuming.

MP Kitchen Magic Render 1Props are one of the most important element to show the magic in Mary Poppins. Taylor Robinson and Bradlee Hager found some inspirations from Pinterest and was able to support the descriptions in the script as well as the work of other designers. The picture you saw here is the original draw/thoughts for kitchen scene by Bradlee. She was trying to figure out how to present the magic moment when Mary Poppins uses her magic to clean the kitchen. Another important prop is the kite. While I will expand the idea of the kite and why we choose it in the future blog, for now, I would say that Bert uses the kite to describe how the family is “raveling undone” and shares how it reveals the secret of the role of Mary Poppins.

Choreographers Becky Wright Phillips and Jenny Giauque-Tingey collaborate with the performers and use with their strengths to design the dance numbers. I personally enjoy the conversation with Becky and Jenny a lot. In fact, the very first time I watched a run through of the show, I was astonished by the brilliant ideas of putting the different styles together. As Mary Poppins is a very rich and interesting musical, I truly believe that it has a room for many different dancing styles. One of my favorite moments is the “love” scene when Mrs. Banks thinks about her relationship with Mr. Banks in the past. Becky described that she felt right to put a modern duet dance there to strengthen the message of the song and to stress the relationship between Mrs. Banks and Mr. Banks.

From the imagination of the designing team to the imaginations we hope the audience will bring, we hope you will find Mary Poppins‘ magic will be everywhere in the show.


  • Alyson

    From “Mary Poppins”- The Magic in Imagination
    From early childhood, Mary Poppins was a classic Disney movie in my house. Since I grew up watching it on TV, I have never put much thought into the adaptation process from movie to the stage. Obviously, there are many elements that cannot transfer over. But as Ting Chun Chang explains, a “magic moment list” was created. This list hit all the highlights and most influential parts of the story, that the production team then used to guide their decisions. It is interesting how something as simple as a costume can illuminate the relationship between two characters, and I especially enjoyed the mix of styles of dance. The choreographers were then able to bring out the best from each performer, and with a wider range of styles, it would be more appealing to a bigger majority of the audience. Before, I wouldn’t typically think a show would mix so many different styles, but this show truly proves that with dedication and imagination, anything is possible onstage.

  • Melissa

    The “special effects” in this show were incredible. I didn’t even think about how much work goes into producing a work such as Mary Poppins on stage. All of Mary’s magic-doing had to be done without any fancy camera tricks, and it had to work every single time. Wow. Hearing somewhat about all the time and creativity and design that went into that is so impressive. I don’t think that I will ever watch a show in quite the same way again. While movies are fun to watch, seeing everything play out live on a stage makes the storytelling experience all the more magical.

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