Marc Shaiman Talks Pressure of Composing New Music for 'Mary Poppins Returns'


Everyone concerned within the making of Mary Poppins Returns felt the strain to do justice to the unique 1964 movie. Rob Marshall labored on it for 3 straight years. Animators got here out of retirement to do hand-drawn animation within the model of the primary. Sets had been constructed. Cast members moved their household to London for a yr.

But maybe nobody wanting Emily Blunt and Marshall had been as heavy with duty as composer Marc Shaiman and his co-lyricist Scott Wittman. They had the Oscar-winning songwriting duo Robert and Richard Sherman to reside as much as, in any case.

Shaiman, who composed the rating and 9 unique songs for the brand new movie, credit the Shermans for getting him fascinated about music to start with. He remembers being four-years-old and listening to the Mary Poppins album and pondering, “This is what I need to do with my life.”

“He was a precocious Four-year-old,” added Wittman, who has recognized Shaiman for over 4 many years. The two are Broadway mainstays and have labored collectively on the Hairspray and Catch Me if You Can musicals. As a framework, Marshall mentioned he “didn’t need to reimagine the music and have or not it’s a up to date model of Mary Poppins, or Mary Poppins singing ‘Let It Go’ or one thing.” He wished it within the model of the Sherman brothers and basic film musicals, which grew to become a chance for Shaiman and Wittman.

“We realized this was our likelihood to thank them music and lyrics,” Shaiman mentioned. “The entire film is to say thanks, you’ve taught us all of these items, allow us to present you what you’ve given us by doing our tackle the story.” The strategy of writing the rating and the songs was lengthy and laborious, and a real staff effort: Four months of twice-a-week classes with Marshall and screenwriters David Magee and John DeLuca to hammer out the story, the script and the path of the songs collectively, and determine which moments within the P.L. Travers books to musicalize.

“Very usually we’d say to David, are you able to write a monologue of what you suppose this ought to be?” Wittman mentioned. “And then we’d say OK thanks we’re taking that and we’re going to write down a lyric to it.” They additionally had been in a position to write particularly for Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, taking part in to their strengths. The two males mentioned Blunt has the uncommon reward of “good pitch.”

“I cherished working with these two guys, they’re a rip,” Blunt mentioned. “They’re simply hilarious to be round.” Wittman likes to cite Lin-Manuel Miranda’s summation of the music.

“He mentioned this Mary Poppins rhymes with the primary film,” Wittman mentioned. “We felt it was necessary that they each reside in the identical world. That influenced the writing.”

Wittman, the co-lyricist, had books upon books about London within the 30s, dictionaries of cockney rhyming slang and encyclopedias of strange Victorian phrases piled up in his studio that he studied and would return to in crafting the brand new lyrics. He laughed that regardless of his in depth analysis, there have been just a few occasions he and Shaiman, each Americans, obtained caught with a rhyme that didn’t fairly work with an English accent. One was identified by Miranda’s dialect coach, the opposite by the younger actors portraying the Banks youngsters.

The lyrics in query that the youngsters caught, “hand” and “command,” had been to be sung by Meryl Streep, who, due to the “weird, bouillabaisse” of an accent she was affecting was in a position to make it work. The entire expertise has been one thing of a dream for Shaiman and Wittman. They obtained the uncommon privilege of attending to report the actors singing together with a 100-piece orchestra earlier than filming started. They’ve additionally gotten to spend time with Richard Sherman (Robert Sherman died in 2012), and listen to legends like Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury sing their songs.

“As somebody who often can’t shut up, I’ve but to seek out the phrases to explain what it’s to listen to them,” Shaiman mentioned. Sherman has instructed them that he’s proud of what they’ve carried out. As is their director.

“Marc and Scott have written this very subtle, hummable, enjoyable (piece),” Marshall mentioned. “The lyrics are so intelligent and so good. You really feel such as you’ve heard them and know them however they’re new.” Wittman mentioned they’re, “Just happy with the film the way in which it got here out. It may have gone unsuitable in so some ways.”

“My agent mentioned that!” Sherman added. “He mentioned there are such a lot of methods this might have gone so terribly unsuitable. And it’s such a miracle that none of these issues occurred.”