The composer Marc Shaiman in the songs of 'Mary Poppins Returns' – Variety

adminNovember 21, 2018

In 2014, composer and composer Marc Shaiman came across a vinyl copy of the soundtrack album of "Mary Poppins" and created a Facebook video of himself, placing the needle on the record, and then going back to ecstasy. He called his video "El cielo".

A few months later, he learned that Walt Disney Studios was embarking on "Mary Poppins Returns", a sequel to that 1964 classic, and begged director Rob Marshall to write the songs (along with his co-lyricist Scott Wittman).

Repeated listens to the soundtrack of "Poppins," with its iconic, Oscar-winning tunes by brothers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, formed the basis of "my whole musical life," says Shaiman. "I learned everything about songwriting, arranging, orchestration and writing for films from the soundtrack of" Mary Poppins. "For the first 18 years of my life, that was my school."

Shaiman and Wittman got the job, and their nine new songs (mostly sung by stars Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda) are in the classic Disney tradition. "It's a completely original score," says Marshall, "but it has the feeling of Sherman Brothers, that was the plan and the goal from the beginning."

"Our love for the original film exceeded our fears," says Shaiman (five times Oscar nominee for such films as "Sleepless in Seattle" and "The American President" and, along with Wittman, a Tony Award winner for the musical "Hairspray. "). "We re-embraced what we loved as children. No need for irony or snark. This is our love letter to the original. "

We re-embraced what we loved as children. No need for irony or snark. This is our love letter to the original. "
The composer Marc Shaiman

Working closely with Marshall and co-writers David Magee and John DeLuca, they were inspired by P.L. Travers books. So, although the challenge was "frightening", admits Wittman, returning to the original source of Poppins adventures "was liberating and liberating, in a way". The duo wrote melodies with titles as evocative as "Can You Imagine That", "Underneath". the Lovely London Sky "and" The Place Where the Lost Things Go ".

"A song must be won, especially a ballad," Marshall adds, "because it has to feel like it's coming out to the perfection of the story." So he and his collaborators designed the film as they would with a Broadway musical, with songs that advance the story, advancing the character to offer the greatest possible depth. "In juxtaposition with these fantasies and adventures, we have a very real story with real people that interest you," says Marshall. "That was very important to me."

Most of 2016 was devoted to developing the story and writing the songs (including several that did not reach the final version). Later that year, Shaiman and Wittman joined Marshall and key cast members during more than two months of rehearsals at London's Shepperton studios before recording the songs. Filming began in late January 2017.

Of special interest to Marshall were the moments in which the actors broke into the song. The classic way of making musical films was, in previous years, to pre-record the songs and then have the actors synchronize with them during the filming. It was not always convincing.

"When you're experiencing the movie, everything should be felt live," says Marshall. "You should never know where the actors sing live and where not." So the final product is a combination of prerecorded voices and those that were made live on the set.

Emily Mortimer, Nathanael Saleh, Pixie Davies, Julie Walters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Joel Dawson and Emily Blunt star in "Mary Poppins Returns".
Courtesy of Disney

"Rob likes to mix the two," explains Blunt. "Pre-record your voices, and then Rob, in a very conveying way for all of us, call him through the speakers throughout the whole so that you do not even have lip sync, you're singing to yourself." Then there would be a horrible moment in the Rob would say, "Okay, we'll do a single performance." You'll be given a small earphone, and you'd be the only person on the set who could listen to the music, so for everyone else you're singing a cappella. Nobody's favorite, but then it gives you that perfect combination of live and pre-recording, Rob always wants me to be very fluent. "

What surprised Shaiman was Marshall's suggestion that, in addition to pre-recording the orchestra and voices, he writes and records approximately 20 minutes of additional, diverse, joyful and exciting music before filming. "Rob is a great believer in putting the actors in the right mood with the music," says Shaiman. Not only was played on the set, but everything ended in the final version of the film.

"The little boy in me had this fantasy, this dream, somehow become part of the story of 'Mary Poppins'," says Shaiman. "The weeks of making this movie were the best weeks of my life."

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