Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow
Chalk pavement pictures, carousel horse racing, tea parties on the ceiling, a magical bag and a flying umbrella. This sounds like a very supercalifragilisticexpialidocious setting for "Mary Poppins," practically perfect in every way.
With a mix of tradition, discipline and rules, Grand Canyon University’s Ethington Theatre becomes a venue of British precision and a whole lot of magical but secretive fun for the two-weekend show, opening tonight at 7:30.
“I’ve loved this show since I was little," says Anna Mettes, playing the role of Mary Poppins. "When I was nine, I did a musical theater camp for the first time and performed 'Anything Can Happen,' which is in 'Mary Poppins.' I graduate from GCU in December and getting to sing that song again now in my last show is a full-circle moment.”
The cast has been preparing for the much-anticipated show for nearly six weeks when a typical production takes eight.
“We don’t really stop or slow down, we are just moving straight ahead. It is a lot of fun, the show itself is fun and in many ways it’s familiar to the students," says Cindi Calhoun, production director and costume shop manager. "There wasn’t a huge learning curve and getting to understand the characters.”
As Mary Poppins herself would say, “in every job that must be done, there’s an element of fun.”
With the snapping of fingers and bit of magic, the stage has been transformed into 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Jacob Currie as Bert is ready to sing and dance and paint the places Michael and Jane have never dreamed of.
“This process has been nothing but playing," Currie said. "I never feel like I am actually working.”
After all, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.
Calhoun said a lot of that time was spent developing characters.
“With this specific play we got to spend more time going into why you think the characters are the way they are, instead of just who they are,” she said.
Getting into character is more than just putting on costumes, hair and makeup. Students had to shift into speaking with accents and practicing mannerisms to bring their characters to life.
“Michael asks a lot of questions. The main thing about childhood is curiosity. He has a lot of that, a lot of joyful glee and desire to spend time with family,” explains Anthony Piunno, a sophomore theatre major playing the character of Michael Banks. “I went for this role because it gave me the opportunity to let out my inner child again. Getting the chance to live out some of the things I did when I was young makes me feel happy again.”
The personal connection between the characters and the actors is evident.
“Bert is a jack-of-all-trades character. He does lots of little things, and I really love to try different hobbies," Currie said. "In almost every scene Bert has a different job. It’s fun to get to wear a couple hats throughout the show. He is one of the rare opportunities you get a male role that dances. Bert is just a good time. It may be cheesy, but Bert is just me.”
Sometimes you find the character, and sometimes the character finds you.
“It was not my intention to go for Winifred," said Lauren Robertson, who plays Winifred Banks. "It was very much so a surprise, but I like the surprise. The movie Winifred is very different from the show Winifred. It’s been cool to get to know a new version of the character that I wasn’t used to.”
It's a production full of laughs and as cozy as a cup of tea.
“This is a very family-friendly and family-encouraged show," Calhoun said. "It helps check all those boxes for us to connect with the community and our audience."
A full house is anticipated and parents with a dire need to find the right nanny are expected.
“I would absolutely let Mary Poppins be my nanny," said Ben Sparling, playing the role of George Banks "Magic is great, and I am a big fan of all the games she plays with the kids. What kid doesn’t want to go to the bank, go to where all the adults are and see where their parents work?”
And what kid wouldn’t want to go to "Mary Poppins?"
GCU's Staff Writer Izabela Fogarasi can be reached at [email protected].
|IF YOU GO:|
|What: "Mary Poppins"|
|Where: Ethington Theatre, Grand Canyon University|
|When: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17-18 and 2 p.m. Nov. 19|
|Tickets: $15-$25, available here, or call the GCU Arena Box Office, (602) 639-8979|
|More information: Check out the Ethington Theatre Instagram|