It has recently come to my attention that that seminal piece of Disney musical history, the brilliant “Sister Suffragette” brought so beautifully to life by Glynis Johns as Mrs. Banks, is omitted from the Broadway version of Mary Poppins. This is a TRAVESTY and I will tell you why.
But first, should we just watch it real quick? Let’s just watch it real quick.
Magnificent, no? The Sherman Brothers were so good at writing, ahem, timeless lyrics.
Okay, okay, politics aside, the lyrics are clever, the tune is catchy, and Glynis Johns KILLS IT. KILLS IT!!!
The wild gesturing! The borderline unhinged facial expressions! The marching! The twirling! The Edwardian version of a striptease! The woman COMMITS!
I love Julie Andrews
as much as more than the next person, but ol’ Glynis there did the most.
The song has a great backstory, too, enumerated on the song’s Wikipedia page but I also read a version in David Koenig’s Mouse Under Glass so it appears to be legit.
It seems that Glynis Johns thought she had been approached to play the title role of Mary Poppins, not Mrs. Banks, a misunderstanding that wasn’t cleared up until a meeting with Walt Disney himself.
Ever fast on his feet, Walt called the Sherman Brothers and said: hey guys, I’m taking Glynis Johns to lunch, but when we get back SHE IS VERY EXCITED TO HEAR THE BIG NUMBER YOU WROTE EXPRESSLY FOR HER CHARACTER. OKAY????
Luckily those enterprising Shermans cracked the code, and after working through a feverish lunch hour of their own, they were able to turn an abandoned melody into the musical masterpiece you watched above. Glynis Johns loved it. She signed as Mrs. Banks and the movie was saved. Saved, I tell you!
So yeah. I don’t know what the heck the producers were thinking when they cut “Sister Suffragette” from Mary Poppins on Broadway. I know Mrs. Banks gets a different feature song, but how can it possibly compare?
I suppose you could argue no one could match Johns’ performance, but the movie’s original star was Julie freaking Andrews, a peerless human being if ever there was one. If another actress can step into her shoes, anyone can step into anyone’s, really.
Perhaps it was the striptease they didn’t like? The political parallels? Or did they just not want to alienate the men in the audience?
Whatever. I’d rather see The Lion King on Broadway a million more times anyway. Never you fear!
But “Sister Suffragette” has an honored place on my running playlist. Thank you, Glynis Johns, you dauntless crusader, you.
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