One of the tips I shared in my Mary Poppins Review post, was to download the soundtrack before seeing the film on opening day. That advice may have had something to do with our exclusive interview, where we talked all thing music with Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
Talking All Things Music With Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman
Composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman graciously sat down with us to discuss the work they created for Mary Poppins Returns. We covered so many aspects of their work in this 15 minute interview. So much so, I couldn’t narrow down what to share with you in this article. From working with Richard Sherman, to how many song creations didn’t make it into the film, we talked about it all. Here is a list of the fun facts Marc and Scott shared with us as we talked all things music and Mary Poppins Returns.
Fun Facts About The Music of Mary Poppins Returns
- Both Marc and Scott spent time with Richard Sherman, co-composer of the original Mary Poppins, and he consulted with them on the creation of the songs for Mary Poppins Returns.
- Marc and Scott looked to the books to create the melodies in this film. Scott said that some of the adventures in the books “just cried out to be sung.”
- Lin-Manuel discovered the “rhyme”. During rehearsals, Scott said Lin-Manuel Miranda put the creation of this score into practically perfect word when he exclaimed “our movie rhymes with the first movie.” The songs aren’t replicas, but they flow well with the original music of Mary Poppins.
- The focus on Michael Banks, played by Ben Whishaw, was early on. Scott and Marc spent 4 months working directly with Rob Marshall and screenwriter, David Magee. During that time, they made sure Marc and Scott knew that this would be Michael’s story.
- Marc and Scott had to kill their darlings. They created a musical number where we celebrate Mary Poppins’ birthday, which happened to fall on a full moon, and the animals at the zoo become the spectators while the humans are in the exhibits. The named the song the Anthropomorphic Zoo. It was cut. Ha! They loved, and still love, that musical sequence, but not everything can make it into a big project like this.
- Interestingly enough, the Sherman brothers wrote a musical number called the Chimpanzoo, for the original Mary Poppins. That song was based on the same subject, but was also cut. So, this made Marc and Scott feel so much better about killing off their “darling.”
- The experience working on Mary Poppins Returns was similar to working on Broadway. Rob Marshall, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have all worked on Broadway, so that thread was pulled throughout the creation process of Mary Poppins Returns.
- This tag team was hired for the score. Marc has scored films in the past, and Rob let him know that was important in the decision to work with him and Scott. Creating a beautiful score for Mary Poppins Returns was essential, and Rob wanted to make sure the songs that were created also worked as scores for the film. This is a particular skill that not many composers have.
- There were many versions of Can You Imagine That. Marc and Scott said this was the most challenging song to write because they were so many versions to pick from when making final decisions.
- There was almost no opening musical number. Originally, Director Rob Marshall didn’t want any musical numbers until Mary Poppins appears within the film. But, Marc and Scott insisted Lin-Manuel had a song to open up the film. They wrote 5 different songs for Lin-Manuel, but went with the first one they wrote, (Underneath the) Lovely London Sky.
What an eye-opening and exciting interview with composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. We loved hearing about their experiences, and everything that went into selecting the musical numbers and score for Mary Poppins Returns.