Emily Blunt is on the cover of December issue of Vogue and Lin-Manuel Miranda keeps her company in the editorial, photographedby Annie Leibovitz in a Mary Poppins Returns inspired photoshoot.
Check out the photos in Gallery!
Under the cut, you can find the parts of the article about Mr. Miranda.
AND WHAT OF MIRANDA, for whom Mary Poppins Returns would be his first major undertaking after departing the Broadway cast of his own Hamilton, the show that seismologically changed his life? And whose new character, Jack the lamplighter—or leerie, to use the Anglo-Scottish term preferred in the film—bears the weight of being both a protégé and heir to Dick Van Dyke’s beloved, chim-chimneying Bert?
“Were you leery of playing a leerie?” I ask Miranda in a Brooklyn café.
“I was not leery of playing a leerie, nor was I weary of playing a leerie. It was eerie to play a leerie,” Miranda replies.
“But did it get teary, playing a leerie?”
“It did,” Miranda says. “There are dreams you have when you’re a kid, and then there’s the notion that Mary Poppins would have a sequel someday and you could somehow possibly be in it. And if I had said that this was a dream of mine, you’d have been like, ‘What are you on?’
“I have a nod to the Sherman brothers in Hamilton, actually,” Miranda goes on. “In King George’s song, there’s a moment where he sings ‘Oceans rise, empires fall,’ and that’s a very Shermanesque move, to have the note go down on rise and up on fall—just like how the note goes up on the down in. . . .” He sings the line “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”
Miranda began his Poppins prep by watching the ’64 movie for the first time since his boyhood. “It’s so timeless and weirdly resonant,” he says. “I mean, one of the first numbers is ‘Sister Suffragette,’ a men-are-stupid, voting-rights-for-women song”—sung by Glynis Johns as Mrs. Banks, the mother of the children to whom Mary Poppins ministers—“so that’s fantastic. And then the visual and musical sequences are as magical as anything you’d see in a movie today.”
Still, there was some collective nervousness to be overcome. The film’s composers, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray, Smash), grappled with how “certifiably insane” it was to try to measure up to the Sherman brothers’ work. “And then, on top of that,” Shaiman says, “what could be more wonderfully torturous than ‘Let’s write songs for Lin-Manuel Miranda’?”
Blunt, Miranda, Shaiman, and Wittman all happen to be based in New York, and so, in the spring of 2016, the four regularly convened in a Chelsea studio. “We got to tailor the songs for Emily and Lin, make them bespoke,” Wittman says. For instance: The songwriters came up with a comic duet titled “A Cover Is Not the Book” that gives Miranda an extended moment to spit rhymes in the breakneck style for which he is known—“For it’s not so cut and dried/Well, unless it’s Dr. Jekyll/Then you better hide, petrified!”—albeit not, thankfully, in the form of an anachronistic rap. Among the conventions of the British music-hall genre is the patter song, a Gilbert and Sullivan–style demonstration of vocal dexterity, “so we felt we could deliver that kind of moment for Lin without compromising the style of the movie, or its time and the place,” Shaiman says.
SIX WEEKS AFTER VIOLET’S BIRTH, Marshall arranged for Blunt and Miranda to workshop the new songs for a week opposite trained Broadway actor-singers in a mid-Manhattan rehearsal space—with Blunt ducking out every so often to pump milk. (“Mary Pump–ins; that’s what I felt like,” she says. “It was ridiculous.”) Next up was three months of rehearsals in England before filming would begin.
No surprise then, that the Mary Poppins that emerged from Blunt’s preparations is more tart, clipped, and expressly comic than Andrews’s—“closer to Dorothy Parker, or Katharine Hepburn in those thirties screwball movies, with a bit of Gene Wilder’s Wonka in there,” as Miranda puts it.
If anything, Mary Poppins Returns is remarkably faithful to the spirit of its predecessor. “The sequel sort of rhymes with the original,” says Miranda.
“I couldn’t believe that, given all that was going on, this is what we got to put into the world,” says Miranda. “It’s so clichéd, but we got to make this enormous present, this beautiful, uplifting, joyous family movie that makes you cry, that made even my stone-hearted-scientist wife cry when she saw an early rough cut of it. I feel really grateful that that’s what we spent our year doing.”