It’s time for another round of Muppet Casting, where we take a famous movie and ask, if Jim Henson’s Muppets made their own version of it (in the vein of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island), which Muppets would you cast in the lead roles?
This week, it’s Mary Poppins!
Sam the Eagle as Mr. Banks – From the moment I even considered doing a Muppet Casting for Mary Poppins, I straight-away knew this casting choice had to be made. “A British American bank is run with precision. A British American home requires nothing less! Tradition, discipline, and rules must be the tools! Without them: disorder, catastrophe! Anarchy! In short, you have a ghastly mess!”
Janice as Mrs. Banks – For Mrs. Banks, you need someone who’s nowhere near as uptight as her husband, yet still fits into the Banks household because she just kinda goes with the flow of it, and is a bit too dippy to see how doing so is completely at odds with her own ideals. Janice would be terrific!
Scooter & Skeeter as The Banks Children – You need a pair of young siblings, so dipping into Muppet Babies for these two seems the natural choice. And if you’re gonna do that, then it’s also only natural to have . . .
Nanny as Katie Nanna – The Banks family’s latest nanny who quits in frustration at the beginning of the movie. Nanny isn’t quite right for the film’s lead nanny, but throwing in a quick cameo like this would be fun.
Kermit the Frog as Bert – Less the version of Kermit you get in The Muppet Show, where he’s constantly frustrated by all the wacky goings on, and more the version from The Muppet Movie, where he just wants to make millions of people happy through song and dance and jokes, and forms close friendships with everyone he meets, and brings a core of emotional intelligence and wisdom to an otherwise lunatic movie.
Fozzie Bear as Uncle Albert – A charming but dotty fellow who’s obsessed with jokes (especially puns) to the point where he regularly lifts off the ground purely through the power of laughter. If this part goes to anyone but Fozzie, then something has gone very askew with the world.
Gonzo the Great as Admiral Boom – The perfect role for Gonzo is to be the nutty neighbor who’s just doing his own insane thing completely separate from the rest of the plot. Throw in Crazy Harry as his gunpowder loading First Mate.
Old Tom, Real Old Tom, and Dead Tom as (in reverse order) Dawes, Sr., Dawes, Jr., and Dawes the Third – I considered Statler & Waldorf for the “duo of grumpy old men” factor, but it just doesn’t work. Laughter is supposed to be so foreign to the Dawes clan that hearing even a mediocre joke sends the eldest Dawes into paroxysms of laughter that kill him. Statler & Waldorf may be grumpy and mean, but they’re no strangers to laughter. So instead, I decided to lean into the advanced elderliness of the Dawes men, and borrow some characters from Muppet Treasure Island. Since Dead Tom is, well, dead, and anytime he speaks is just someone else doing ventriloquism with him, that will make him spontaneously laughing for real, all on his own during the climax super extra miraculous.
Now, for the lead role of Mary Poppins herself, I’m torn between two choices, both of whom would be fantastic in the role. One of them is:
Miss Piggy – Especially if you go with the more vain and bossy Mary Poppins from the original books, Miss Piggy is a fantastic fit. You really can believe she could turn an entire household upside down through sheer indominatable force of will, and a refusal to treat anyone else’s objections as remotely worth considering.
However, I kinda feel like, in a cast full of Muppets, the wrecking ball that is Mary Poppins, blown in from who-knows-where to upend everything, should be played by a human guest star. Now, I’m sure Emily Blunt will do a fine job in the role for Mary Poppins Returns, but if I were casting the part using a contemporary actor? There could be only one choice:
Our Very Special Guest, Ms. Jameela Jamil! – Anyone who watches The Good Place, you know what I’m talking about. Whoever plays Mary Poppins has to be an exemplar of old-fashioned, no-nonsense British politeness, be supremely self-confident to the point of arrogance, and at the same time be a thoroughly charming person it’s an absolute blast to be around. I’m not sure anyone else could pull that off quite as well as Ms. Jamil. Who else could declare, “I’m practically perfect in every way”, and not only still be someone you like, but have you thinking, “Y’know, maybe she’s got a point”?
Those are my picks for a Muppet rendition of Mary Poppins. What are yours?