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Practically perfect nanny graces local theaters

Jun 18, 2018 01:04PM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

) 18-year-olds Lilah Straaten and Wyatt Strensrud star as Mary and Bert in the Midvale Main Street Theatre’s “Mary Poppins Jr.” production. (Courtesy Midvale Main Street Theatre)

By Lana Medina | l.medina@mycityjournals.com

The winds are changing, and Mary Poppins is passing through Utah productions.

Decades ago, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke immortalized the iconic film “Mary Poppins,” and now with the newest Mary Poppins movie due to hit the box office in December, local productions are bringing back their own versions this summer.

The Draper City Arts Council showed off their own version at the Draper Amphitheater in June. 

The practically perfect nanny also landed at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center for several shows in June. 

And at the Midvale Main Street Theatre, 21 children — from 8 to 18 years old — danced and sang their way through a choreographed production of “Mary Poppins Jr.,” to the delight of packed audiences.

Mary and her friend Bert danced and sang on stage to the popular songs “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and much more. 

“You wake up with the songs in your head,” Tammy Ross, who owns the Midvale Theatre, joked before one of the last performances of “Mary Poppins Jr.” The junior production started training three months before opening night, and Ross said “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” took months to get just right. 

Tammy’s daughter Cassidy, who produced the show, said all their regular junior cast members have been begging for a dance show for ages. When “Mary Poppins Jr.” became available to perform this year, she leapt at the chance.

“We chose it because it gave them a challenge in choreography. Tap dancing came back, a bit of Broadway choreography,” Cassidy Ross said.

The live theater production follows the story of the popular 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, and the songs are similar, but there are dozens of changes to the live theater version. And the newest Mary Poppins film is expected to be an even bigger change.

The film, “Mary Poppins Returns,” is scheduled to hit the box office on December 25. According to IMDB.com, the film is a sequel to the 1964 film and follows Mary Poppins re-visiting Michael and Jane Banks, now grown up, after they experience a family tragedy. 

Dick Van Dyke is the only returning member of the 1964 cast. The new film stars Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, a lamplighter and apprentice to Jack from the first film.

“It’s good timing,” said Tammy Ross about the Midvale Main Street Theatre’s live production of “Mary Poppins Jr.,” but she says it wasn’t planned in connection to the upcoming Disney film. “It was just one of those things.”

Cassidy Ross picked “Mary Poppins Jr.” for their junior production this year because it had just been released, and she was looking for a musical for the kids to perform. 

The teens playing Mary and Bert were excited minutes before their final performance. 

“It’s inspiring to see all the emotions that come out of people. I work with kids, it’s so fun to see all their smiles,” said 18-year-old Lilah Straaten, who played Mary.

This was Straaten’s first performance with the Midvale Main Street Theatre, and she says she loves live theater. And for this local production, there’s been something new every night.

 “Our Mr. Banks broke his foot,” Cassidy Ross said. “Funny enough, (he was) sitting on a side table and the table broke, and he just landed wrong and broke his foot. But he rocks it on crutches.”

During another performance, the lights flickered on and off at the beginning of the second act, and the cast had to pretend nothing was happening. 

For 18-year-old Wyatt Stensrud, who played Bert, this production has helped inspire him to pursue acting when he attends college in fall 2018. 

“I love seeing the power theater has,” Stensrud said. “(The audience) can come, see a show, and relate to someone in the show.”

The Mary Poppins performance inspired one 3-year-old girl so much that she has attended almost every summer performance in full Mary Poppins costume, and even posed for a picture with Straaten after the production ended, Cassidy Ross said.

The scheduled productions of Mary Poppins ended in June, but there are several other local theater shows planned for the rest of the year in Utah.

 

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