A robin feathering his nest
Has very little time to rest
While gathering his bits of twine and twig
Though quite intent in his pursuit
He has a merry tune to toot
He knows a song will move the job along

A Spoonful of Sugar, Mary Poppins

I’ve got it!  By Jove, I have got it!  What?  I hear you all cry.  Well, I have discovered the key to a harmonious life!  Yes, I know, impressive for a Wednesday morning.  I’m so bowled over by my discovery I’m even going to share it with you…

I have discovered the single, fail proof, method to get children to do your bidding.  I know!  So, here goes…

All you need to do is: Sing.  You’re welcome.

Yes, it really is that simple.  Mary Poppins had it bloody right all along!  Every request, every demand, just sing it to your children.  In fact, turn everyday life into a musical.  ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ is actually the holy grail for nannies and parents alike.  What happens in the film when Mary sings this catchy little number?  Why, the children happily tidy the nursery.  With no fuss.  Mary Poppins doesn’t even have to ask more than once for this feat to be achieved!  All she has to do is sing a happy little song, throw in a comparison to a busy robin feathering his nest and hey presto.  Job done.  All these years and I thought that magic (or at least a Disney sized production budget) was required but no.  It really is that simple.

If Disney’s Mary Poppins and the inimitable Julie Andrews isn’t proof enough for you (and I can understand how the sceptics among you may need further convincing) then take this morning’s events:  Wednesday morning, Daddy is off and out early.  The cherubs wake at just after 7am.  There would then usually follow a full 60-90 minutes of repeated requests from myself for the children to:  get dressed, have breakfast, brush their teeth, get hairbands, put shoes on, put coats on, get book bags and finally get out of the door.  This usual sequence of events would regularly get stuck, like that proverbial broken record (or buffering stream to bring this idiom bang up to date).  We would usually have 60-90 minutes of increasing levels of frustration and volume.  This morning I don’t know what came over me.  I really, really don’t but I started singing.  The children LOVED it.  Every task I requested through the medium of a jolly tune was immediately completed.  I only had to ask (sing) once people, ONCE!

OK, I know that the children could have been attempting to get me to stop (my singing voice is definitely not in the same league as Julie Andrews), but to be honest, do I care about that?  No way.  The point is they did my bidding without the negotiating, shouting, pleading, crying.  It worked!

The power of musicals has been well documented, Mike Isaacson gave a TEDx talk on this very subject.  There has been research into the power of a musical to change minds and perceptions.  To be honest though the majority of us don’t need evidence we can just feel that musicals are a powerful media.  The combination of story, moral, song, costume, music and theatre all combine to produce some kind of magic that touches our souls and enriches our life experiences.

Last year we took the children to see Matilda (the adaptation of Roald Dahl’s brilliant book), in the summer we watched a friend in an excellent amateur production of The Wizard of Oz, and last week we went to see Mary Poppins at the Bristol Hippodrome.  This latter was a spectacular production.  It took well known elements from the film and less well known episodes from P L Travers’ novels and wrapped it all together in an evening sprinkled with magic.  As I sat in my seat and the curtain fell, I felt it.  The emotional connection.  I don’t even know what with.  I just knew that I had been touched and I had shared the experience not only with the people that I love most in the world but a theatre full of strangers.  Even my father, a man who is not emotional, a man who talks straight and doesn’t suffer fools, even he was leaning forward in his seat enraptured by the spectacle of chimneysweeps tap-dancing on the stage in front of him, leaning across to his grand-daughter to see if she had thought it was as amazing as he had.

The perception that musicals are frivolous entertainment just irritates me.  West Side Story, Calamity Jane, Oliver!, The Sound of Music, Les Miserables, even Frozen are musicals with messages.  Some are more serious and challenging than others.  The musical form allows a wider audience to access the issues that are addressed, to understand social complexities, emotional connections, moral dilemmas or historical events that might otherwise be beyond comprehension (French Revolution anyone?).  The musical form enlightens as well as entertains.  The musical form gets jobs done.  The musical form has arrived at The Life of Ryrie!