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Murray, Cottonwood Theatre Students to Perform Same Poppin’ Fun Musical

Nov 06, 2015 09:40AM ● Published by Julie Slama

By Julie Slama

When Bert begins with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” in the prologue, he shares, “Wind’s in the east, there’s a mist comin’ in; Like somethin’ is brewin’ and ‘bout to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store, but I feel what’s to ‘appen all ‘appened before.”

Bert could be talking about students in the two Murray high schools, Murray High and Cottonwood High, both planning to perform in their own schools’ musicals of “Mary Poppins.”

Murray High students will take the stage at 7 p.m. from Thursday, Nov. 12 through Saturday, Nov.14, and again, Monday, Nov. 16, in the school auditorium, 5440 S. State St. Advanced seating tickets are available from cast members, and can also be purchased at lunchtime for $7 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Tickets at the door will cost $8.

About 150 students will put on Cottonwood’s production that will be held at 7 p.m. from Thursday, Nov. 19 through Saturday, Nov. 21, and again, Monday, Nov. 22. Tickets are $8 for advanced general admission purchased on the school website, or $9 at the auditorium door of the school, located at 5715 South 1300 East. There will also be a noon matinee on Saturday, Nov. 21.

“This is a great opportunity to have a huge musical with more kids involved, and a little more spectacle than our more recent shows,” Murray High director Will Saxton said. “It’s also an ambitious technical challenge, with scenes constantly changing, costumes changing, Mary, Bert and the kids flying. There’s a magical element with Mary Poppins and although it is a difficult production, we want our audience to see a great show and think it was easy to put on.”

Starring in the Murray High cast is senior Rheannon Longhurst, who plays Mary Poppins; junior Truman Schipper, who plays Bert; junior Klarissa Woodmansee, who plays Mrs. Banks; senior Braxton Burningham, who plays Mr. Banks; Hillcrest Junior High eighth grader Heather Bernstein, who plays Jane; and Riverview Junior High eighth grader Caleb Spjute, playing Michael. Choreography is coordinated by dance company advisor Leesa Lloyd, music direction is under Alan Scott and the band is directed by Rob Wilson.

Cottonwood’s director, Adam Wilkins, picked up the book “Mary Poppins” last summer “just on a whim when I was at an old bookstore, and I discovered there are deeper messages in it.”

“Mary Poppins is a story about a family, and the conflict comes from Mr. and Mrs. Banks not spending enough time with their children,” he said. “The father is obsessed with his career, the mom is obsessed with her image and the kids just want time with them. In a day and age when we have every luxury in the world, the precious commodity we still crave is time with the family — to go fly a kite. The father discovers through his kids how to be a father, and it made me think about the message and refocus on my own family.”

Part of what makes Wilkins excited about putting on “such an amazing show” is the music.

“The songs are so wonderful — ‘Step in Time,’ ‘Supercalifragilisticexpidalidocious,’ ‘Feed the Birds,’ ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ — they all have melodies and messages that we remember. ‘Mary Poppins’ was just realized for high schools and the public to put on this year, even though the movie was released in 1964. The family whose story it is based on is still very protective of it, but they kept this musical true to the book. So if you just know the Disney ‘Mary Poppins,’ you don’t know this ‘Mary Poppins,’” he said.

Wilkins had his leads — junior Karin Allred as Mary Poppins and senior Matt Bowden as Bert — read the book before rehearsals began.

“I like to take stories they think they know and the love of classics in literature, and have them prove that theater can make the stories come to life. As an educator, I want my students to learn a deeper meaning and the messages inspired by this literature,” Wilkins said.                

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