Redemption

I just returned from the Castro Theatre, where I participated in a sing-along of Mary Poppins … or as I renamed it tonight, “George Banks: A Redemption Story.”

The world — both mine and the one at large — has felt too serious lately, not unlike George Banks himself. Tradition, discipline, and rules, as the song goes, have been my tools.

Tonight, I got new ones: the shiny gold crown, glow stick, blowing bubbles, and confetti popper that the Castro Theatre crew, costumed as Mary Poppins characters, handed each patron as we walked in. These gift bag items, plus the hair comb left over from the Grease sing-along, were our props for amplifying the film’s celebratory (and, apparently, flyaway hair) moments.

For two-and-a-half hours, while donning my crown, I left behind the parts of my life that feel like a cold English bank. I sang every note at top volume; released my confetti when Admiral Boom fired his first cannon; blew bubbles throughout the ceiling tea party scene, emitting real belly laughs at “wooden leg named Smith” and the rest of Uncle Albert’s jokes; and waved my glow stick in the air while the kites flew at the end.

The sweetest moment was when Mary Poppins pulled her five-foot-tall coat rack out of the carpet bag she could wear on her arm. A four-year-old boy sitting in my row, who hadn’t seen the rack until it emerged from the bag, yelled for the whole theater to hear: “WOW! I didn’t even know that would fit in there!” We all got an Uncle Albert-strength laugh out of that one.

I pulled another Uncle Albert later in the film, when a man in the row behind me rightly called Mary Poppins to task. As Jane and Michael Banks sobbed over her impending departure, Jane asked through giant tears, “Mary Poppins, don’t you love us?” Stone-faced, Poppins replied, “And what would happen to me, may I ask, if I loved all the children I said goodbye to?” The man behind me said, “That’s cold. That’s some cold shit right there, Mary Poppins.”

I hadn’t seen this movie in three decades. As a child, I watched it about ten times a year. Viewing it through an adult lens tonight, I discovered the following truths that I’d never noticed in childhood: 1) Despite her heart of spun gold underneath, Mary Poppins is quite the gaslighting narcissist at times, believing and surrounding herself with believers that she is “practically perfect in every way”; 2) Bert the chimney sweep shares equal family-saving hero credits with Mary Poppins; and 3) Dick Van Dyke plays not only Bert, but also Mr. Dawes, Sr., the elderly banker who died of laughter, once George Banks showed him how to laugh after learning to do so himself.

I needed tonight’s spoonful of sugar, and I’m so glad I consumed it. Castro Theatre, you are supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

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