Thursday, July 28, 2011
Thursday Night in Williamsburg: SummerStarz presents "Mary Poppins" at East River State Park
We've just walked back from the Williamsburg Waterfront, where thanks to the SummerStarz movie at East River State Park, we spent a delightful evening watching Mary Poppins for the first time in several decades.
Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking, but it was a sentimental journey to see this movie with so many little kids (where do they all come from? they weren't around Williamsburg five years ago!), reminding of us of when we saw it, in the fall of 1964 at Radio City.
We were already 13 and predisposed to like it because we were mad that Julie Andrews was bypassed for the role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, but our youngest brother was only 3 and he could really feel the magic of it.
There was a huge turnout at SummerStarz, seemingly ten times the number of people (and kids!) than at the first Thursday night movies presented by Town Square, Inc., a couple of years ago.
Beforehand, the charming Brooklyn kids' rock band The Rockdoves played as lots of little kids danced joyfully and sometimes furiously.
It was a gorgeous evening with a nice cool breeze and only a couple of drops of rain.
Mary Poppins seemed impressive to us at 60, probably more so than it might have when we were a jaded 13-year-old. Despite his awful mock-Cockney accident, Dick Van Dyke was amazing (and amazingly young), and Julie Andrews was just incredibly good (a lot better, we thought then, than she was in The Sound of Music, which seemed more sentimental to at least the teenage boy we were).
For us tonight, the big revelation was David Tomlinson's finely modulated performance as the dour and dogmatic Mr. Banks, the children's father who is the character most transformed by Mary Poppins' entry into their lives. The subtext barely suggests Mary Poppins was once Mr. Banks' own nanny, but we like to think she was.
And for us, the best song is "Feed the Birds," which makes us tear up, perhaps because of the image of the incomparable Jane Darwell, just before she died, as the Bird Woman. (And probably because in the years before she succumbed to Alzheimer's, our own mom's main concern in life, besides her dog, was feeding the passing birds in her backyard.)
It was a wonderful evening for a lot of the kids there. On the way out, we heard one boy ask his parents, of the umbrella-flying Mary, "What if she gets hit by a plane?" Anyway, we're grateful we got to see this picture again before we croak.