The ‘Mary Poppins’ sequel has a shot at being special

Now that he has utterly and completely conquered Broadway, it”ll be interesting to see how Hollywood handles Lin-Manuel Miranda. It”s clear that he”s already been embraced by the creative community. He and JJ Abrams had a lot of fun creating that cantina song for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and had apparently even more fun performing the song live for crowds waiting for the daily Hamilton ticket lottery. He”s working on songs for Moana, the Polynesian-themed Disney musical that will feature Dwayne Johnson singing.

His long-rumored connection to the Mary Poppins sequel has finally been verified by an official press release from Disney. While I consider Mary Poppins one of the crown jewels of Disney”s entire filmography, I am not instantly opposed to a sequel. It”s clear now that they are not remaking the original, and considering how much other material P.L. Travers wrote about the character over the years, it”s not impossible to imagine there”s more story worth telling.

And if you”re going to make a modern sequel to one of your studio”s classics, then you need to make sure you throw the best possible talent into the mix. In addition to Miranda”s involvement, it”s obviously hugely important to find the right Mary Poppins, and Emily Blunt is long overdue her iconic moment of superstardom. Talented, gorgeous, and able to play anything that”s been thrown at her so far, Blunt had one of the most frustrating near-misses I can imagine when the shooting schedule of Gulliver”s Travels prevented her from playing Black Widow in Iron Man 2. I love Scarlett Johansson in the role, especially lately as she”s started playing more and more layered notes in her interpretation of Natasha, but I can”t help but wonder what Emily Blunt could have done with it. I think she would have been great, and Edge Of Tomorrow seemed to establish that she was more than up to any physical challenge the role would have presented.

Mary Poppins is a different kind of challenge. Mary Poppins Returns will be directed by Rob Marshall, and while I have some big problems with his films, I”m going to cross my fingers here and hope that everyone else”s work is so elevated, so good, and so undeniably on-target that Marshall”s work carries the day. Because, man… I want to believe. Marc Platt and John DeLuca are producing, with David Magee (Finding Neverland, Life of Pi) writing. Marc Shaiman is writing the score, and Scott Wittman (Shaiman”s longtime collaborator and life partner) is working on the songs. They wrote Hairspray together, and they”ve also worked on the recent Broadway musical versions of Catch Me If You Can and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Most recently, they worked on Bombshell, the musical within the show Smash.

So Lin-Manuel Miranda is joining this as a cast member, not as a writer, and that”s fascinating to me. What”s he playing? Well… here”s the official Disney synopsis:

Blunt has been cast as Mary Poppins and Miranda will play a new character, a street lamplighter named Jack. Drawing from the wealth of material in P.L. Travers” seven additional novels, the story will take place in Depression-era London (when the books were originally written) and follows a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, who, along with Michael”s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives.

Mary Poppins Returns will be in theaters December 25, 2018.