Walt Disney Pictures is taking a famous singing nanny's advice that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. It's sweetening Mary Poppins, a 37-year-old movie musical about the virtues of cleanliness and proper behavior, with some interactive additions and giving it a revival theater run. In the process, it's turning audience partici--wait for it!--pation into a family affair.
Unlike The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which anyone with a pair of fishnets and a copy of the film can turn into a stage show, Mary Poppins Sing-A-Long is controlled by Walt Disney Pictures. The new version premiered last year at Disney's own theater, the El Capitan in Los Angeles, and opens this week at Dallas' Lakewood Theater and venues in three other big markets.
Like Rocky Horror, audience members are encouraged to dress in character for Mary Poppins Sing-A-Long. El Capitan audience members came dressed in everything from Mary and her chimney-sweeping pal Bert to penguin waiters, crazy Uncle Albert, and Suffragettes. A costume contest will be held before each show. There's also a Disney-trained actress in character as the prim nanny who descended from the clouds with the help of an umbrella and could make toys leap into their trunks. She instructs the audience how to sing along with the lyrics that roll across the bottom of the screen "follow the bouncing ball" style during musical numbers.
The Lakewood Theater sweetens the deal even more by having guest singers at each show. So far, it has scheduled Sara Hickman, Eddie Coker, several radio disc jockeys, and the staff of the Enchanted Forest bookstore. The Turtle Creek Chorale performs during the 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. shows Saturday. That's enough sugar to coat any elixir.