Is Mary Poppins too sensible to be straight?

Is Mary Poppins too sensible to be straight?

“You think Mary Poppins may have been a lesbian?”

“Whaaaa?” This was the response I gave my editor when he posed the question to me. Honestly, I had never given the matter any thought. I mean, the lion from The Wizard of Oz, that one’s a no brainer. So was “Hermey”—Hello! The name says it all about the elf that wants to be a dentist from Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Velma, of “Scooby-Doo” fame—questionable.

But Mary Poppins? A spoon-full-of-sugar Mary Poppins?

“Well, you know, she’s got sensible hair,” my editor said.

“No she doesn’t,” I said. “Trust me, as a fellow woman with long hair, if it’s long, it’s not sensible.”

“Her shoes are,” he countered.


Time to do some research.

MP1_287712544.jpgThose of you that want to do it for yourself can from now until June 6 at Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. Tickets start at $18.50.

Mary Poppins is one of the biggest stage musical successes to emerge from London or New York in recent years, according to the Straz Center. The musical has grossed more than $392 million worldwide and has been seen by more than 5.3 million people. More than 1,400 of those performances were on Broadway alone, making it one of its most profitable shows.

The original Mary Poppins book was written by P. L. Travers and published in 1934. The story and main character was so popular, it would spawn seven sequels before Disney made the 1964 movie classic starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

Apparently, the literary Mary was a little sterner, darker, edgier than the family-friendly Disney version, apparently deleting the famous “I told you no collapsible umbrellas, ever!!!” from the book.
Oops, sorry. Wrong movie, wrong gay icon.

In recent years, Travers’ sexuality has come under media scrutiny, questions arising as to whether or not all of her female relationships were strictly platonic.

“If you are looking for autobiographical facts,” Travers once wrote, “Mary Poppins is the story of my life.”

Oh, dear. Maybe it’s time to take a second look at that wardrobe.

MP2_611828786.jpgShe arrives of course, via umbrella, carpet bag, heavy, dark over coat, buttoned up to here, down to there. It’s dark charcoal to black. Stodgy for sure. She does have some cheery little flowers going on the hat though. Eh, I’m cutting her some slack. It’s late Victorian, maybe early Edwardian England. It’s cold and windy. I look like the Michelin Tire Man when it drops below 70.


Let’s look at her work uniform. Okay, its down-right dowdy. But, she’s a nanny for God’s sake. Wouldn’t you be a little concerned if the uniform wasn’t a little stiff? Do we really need to see an installment of Nannies Gone Wild? Or some sort of crazy hybrid of Disney and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle? Yes, I’d say she should go a little nuts and open the top of her 38 front buttons and maybe let one hair loose, but you know, that just wouldn’t be Mary. She’s a professional. She’s on the clock. She just maybe needs a What Not to Wear consultation.

Okay, it’s going to be brought up, so I’m going to throw it out there—if you were hanging out with chimney sweeps, how dressed up do you think you’d be getting? I mean, really. Not the time to break out the couture.

As a matter of fact, if she did, the whole production would be considered a tragedy. Admit it. The gasping, crying, wailing and gnashing of teeth would be frenzied. And then we’d cut her. Again, sensibility points.

Oh, but wait, wait, wait. Mary has a bit of a wild side.

There’s more than one scene where Mary can be seen wearing a coat—yes, coat. Long sleeved, to almost ankle—in a very bright red with black accents. Gasp! Mary! Red! The traditional color for street walkers! You brazen hussy, you!

See what happens when it’s the weekend and you let her hang out with chimney sweeps? She lets her hair down. Well, no, not really.

Then, of course, there’s the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” scene in which she wears a white, frothy, diaphanous lacy entirely lady-like dress. She’s got the red corset again—Mary! You sassy girl, you! Not to mention the over-the top hat. Of course, she’s still buttoned up to her chin. Of course the hair is still sensible. But you know what? She looks like a lady. She looks comfortable as a lady.

It’s her Julia Roberts, red dress Pretty Woman moment. And it works. Hats off, Mary. No, really. Please take the hat off. I’m afraid between the corset, the high neck and the straps tied so tightly around your chin, your airway is obstructed.

So, was I able to jump to any conclusions about Mary’s sexuality by the way she dressed? Eh. I couldn’t figure anything out. You be the judge.

However, I would have been a little more suspicious if Mr. Banks walked out in the frilly white dress to go fly a kite.

Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.

For more information about the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and its upcoming events, visit

What: Mary Poppins
When: Now through June 6
Where: Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa

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