I have only the highest praise for Mary Poppins Returns and now I shall do the same in my review of the soundtrack. From the first note of track one to the last chord of the end credits, the entire 1 hour and 18 minutes is a magical aural experience. Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman play your heart strings and touch your soul in every original piece for what I consider to be the greatest film of the decade.
A word of caution to any spoiler haters, you will want to wait for the soundtrack until after seeing the film. While the lyrics don’t give away everything, many of the main plot elements are revealed in the songs. But if your heart can’t wait and needs a pick-me-up, then by all means listen away. Off we go!
There are nine original songs on the soundtrack, with a few reprises towards the end. “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky” bookends the film and the song selection on the soundtrack. In my opinion, it hasn’t gotten enough love (yet) and after seeing the film, was stuck in my head more than any other. I became very emotional about 30-seconds into this number in the theater and experienced a similar relapse while listening. It’s a gem of a song and one of my favorites from the film.
The “Overture” is track two and indeed, it comes after the first song in the film. It’s a nice, quick little sample of most of the melodies you will hear on the soundtrack. The most used in the score is from “Can You Imagine That?,” an incredibly catchy and fun melody that is somewhat reminiscent of “A Spoonful of Sugar.”
There are two songs during the 2D animated sequence, which are “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” and “A Cover is Not the Book,” although a third track called “Introducing Mary Poppins” is actually just a lead-in to one of them with dialogue. I find “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” to be the most forgettable song in the score, while “A Cover is Not the Book” is a very fun upbeat number with a bridge that serves as a showcase for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rap skills, reminiscent of Bert’s recital of all of the ladies who don’t hold a candle to Mary Poppins from “Jolly Holliday.”
If there is a “Feed the Birds” in the film, it’s “The Place Where Lost Things Go.” It’s an emotional moment in the film and it draws out a similar reaction on the soundtrack. Of all the songs, this is the one I would put my money behind for awards season (although it was already snubbed by the Golden Globes).
“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” is a 7-minute splashy song and dance spectacle that gives “Step in Time” some heavy competition for the greatest musical number in all of film history. It’s a very fun song and an empowering one at that. And another favorite of mine is saved for almost last, “Nowhere to Go but Up,” performed by legendary actress Angela Lansbury. It may leave you sad in the film that it’s all coming to an end, but you can listen to it again and again on the soundtrack.
In addition to the “Overture,” there are thirteen orchestral tracks with a sampling of the film’s score, which has thankfully received a Golden Globe nomination. It repeats many of the melodies from the songs (mostly “Can You Imagine That?”), but Sherman Brothers fans will delight in the sporadic sampling of songs from the original film.
This soundtrack comes with a lifetime guarantee to lift your spirits and make you feel like a child again anytime you need a pick me up. It’s a transformative experience, restoring you to the person you were before adulthood muddied you up. I don’t care who you are, you need a little Mary Poppins in your life and the soundtrack to Mary Poppins Returns repeatedly delivers.