ICT presents a spoonful of ‘Poppins’



September 12, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Rehearsals for Iola Community Theatre’s musical production of “Mary Poppins,” have been supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
The ICT is pulling out all the stops to launch such a big production in recognition of its 50th anniversary.
“Mary Poppins,” tells the story of Jane and Michael Banks and their magical nanny Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins sweeps the children into fun adventures with her friend Bert and opens their eyes to a whole new world. Along the way the children rub some of their new sunny attitude off on their conventional parents, George and Winifred Banks.
The theatrical demands on the large cast of 39 make it a challenge to produce, Spencer said.
“This is a very difficult show, but we wanted to give the community something fantastic for our anniversary,” Spencer said.
The production, which requires singing, dancing and flying, is next weekend at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
Familiar and new faces will grace the stage.
Playing Mary Poppins is Sabra Aguirre, whom Iola audiences have watched grow up on stage.
“I was in sixth grade with my first ICT performance,” she said. “When we had talked about doing this show a year ago I wasn’t planning on auditioning,” she said. “But when I saw it at the Starlight Theater (in Kansas City) I thought ‘this is so not me’ and I’d love the challenge. I knew it was something I’d have to work at to make it right.”
Jim Stukey, Burlington, another familiar ICT presence, will fill the role of Bert.
Jim Gilpin and Kristina Palmer portray George and Winifred Banks. And newcomers Cali Riley and Everett Glaze will portray their darling children, Jane and Michael.

SPENCER said he was overwhelmed by the amount of talent among cast members.
“The voices we have in this show are superb,” he said. “I would say they are the best voices we’ve had in some time.”
Twenty-nine children auditioned for the role of Michael and Jane and Spencer said it was tough to narrow it down to just two.
About half of the cast are newcomers to the Bowlus.
The community theater typically builds its own set but to do justice to the production, the ICT board made the decision to rent the set from a professional company.
“We’ve never had a set this caliber before,” Aguirre said of her experience with the community theater.
Because the show also requires several characters to fly they rented an apparatus and were trained how to use it by professionals.
Spencer said there is no attempt to completely hide the wires, safety is the main focus.
“It’s a lot of fun but a little painful,” said Aguirre. “You definitely have to put a lot of trust in the people operating it.”
The theater production is similar to the Disney movie of the same name but has a few changed scenes. There will be no magical horses taking to the skies from a carousel or floating chairs in a song about the joys of laughter. The audience will have to use some imagination.
Still, “people will definitely recognize the show and songs,” director Richard Spencer said.
A character in the theater production that is not portrayed in the movie is a Miss Andrews, the nanny of George Banks, who grew up to be a stodgy banker. George’s upbringing by his nanny was missing in many qualities and as a result he has a hard time letting his emotions show. Mary Poppins teaches him to let loose.

AS DELIGHTFUL as the music, directed by Jan Knewtson and Aguirre, will be the dancing.
Spencer tapped Chelsea Lea, a local dance instructor, for direction on choreography. The show includes 14 dancers from area studios who will perform in a series of numbers.
“The tap number for ‘Step in Time,’ is very fast-paced and we didn’t want to do it if we couldn’t do it right,” Spencer said. “The dance is as every bit as difficult as the one on Broadway.”
Spencer said the actors have been great to work with over the last six weeks. Many have also doubled up as stage crew.
While “Mary Poppins” is sure to be a treat, it comes at a hefty price.
“A typical musical for us costs one-third of what this costs,” Spencer said, putting the price tag of production at about $30,000.
“We expressly did this show because it is our 50th anniversary,” Spencer said.
To make up a $10,000 deficit, funds from the Bowlus and the Stephenson Trust were granted to the production, Spencer said.
Their financial support also helps keeps the cost of children’s tickets at an affordable price. Spencer said he wants the show to be affordable for the whole community to enjoy.
They’re also hoping on a full house each night.
Tickets are on sale at Sophisticated Rose. They are $15 for adults and $8 for kids. “Mary Poppins,” will run at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 and 19 and 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.
“This show is fun,” Aguirre said. “I’m excited to finally have an audience and I’m excited for the other actors to get the experience of having an audience watch their work.”

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