Usually whenever an entry dawdles in my head unwritten for such a ludicrous time span, I don’t preface its procrastinated release with hyperbole to the effect of “It’s an entry five months in the making!” as if I’ve been toiling away on it day and night, tinkering with every last clause and syllable with a mental toolkit until I achieved self-expressive perfection. Sometimes that is my writing process in my mind, till I unveil the end results and then spot three typos and six flat punchlines. That isn’t the excuse here.
Anne and I haven’t watched the original Mary Poppins in 35-40 years. We had considered revisiting it before lining up for director Rob Marshall’s showy happy sequel, but all the legal streaming services wanted twelve bucks or more for one (1) showing of one (1) 54-year-old film. We moved on without it.
I remember very little of the plot, but the songs have haunted me ever since. Credit goes mostly to the legendary songwriting team of Robert and Richard Sherman, and partly to my grade-school music teacher Mrs. Quebbeman, later Mrs. Surdi when she remarried. She taught us songs we never wanted to know (“Up with People”), didn’t notice when a few of us discovered the new fad called “lip-syncing” in sixth grade, assigned me solos in three consecutive Christmas programs while I still had a stable singing voice, and blessedly introduced us to the wonders of wooden percussion, “The Rainbow Connection”, “Danse Macabre”, and at least half the Mary Poppins soundtrack. For me the film may have faded, but the tunes remain etched into my brain. Long after all the useful parts have shut down, I’ll be in my bed humming the chorus from “Step in Time” till the end of days.
Sadly, Mrs. Surdi passed away about a month ago. She was firmly in my thoughts as Mary Poppins Returns played on. Thanks to her, I knew ahead of time there’s no way I’d like the sequel more than the original. But sometimes it’s nice to sit back, be patient, listen closely, and wait to be surprised at what sticks.
After the 2014 Best Picture nominee Whiplash gave us a world where collegiate jazz is a nightmarish torture chamber of brutal perfectionism that only the most warped can survive, director Damien Chazelle rebukes his own darkest timeline with the nostalgic club jazz and vintage Hollywood set pieces of La La Land, an eye-popping, romantic pageant wired like an old-fashioned musical but keenly aware of our compromised 21st-century tableau that rewards far fewer dreamers than previous eras did.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…
On our first Manhattan foray back in 2011, The Lion King was the first Broadway show we’d ever seen. I’m sure there’re locals and/or hardcore Broadway fans who consider it too populist a choice or whatever, but it was our unanimous decision that didn’t disappoint us in any way imaginable. For our next feature presentation, we once again took our family interests to heart and chose accordingly.
[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]
After plumbing the depths of Grant’s Tomb we had an afternoon appointment for our very first Broadway show: The Lion King. But first we had to get there. The trip down from 122nd Street to 45th Street wasn’t a short one.