Students soar through opening weekend of ‘Mary Poppins’

Chloe Wintersteen

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Tam District thespians premiered in the Throckmorton Theatre’s first youth musical of the season, “Mary Poppins,” in Mill Valley during the weekend of Nov. 13. Tamiscal junior Lucy Phillipes and Redwood sophomore Jake Hanssen participated in the opening weekend performances.   

Tamsical junior Lucy Phillipes (Mrs. Brill) awaits her cue with Tam sophomore Fergus Campbell (Bert).

Tamsical junior Lucy Phillipes (Mrs. Brill) awaits her cue with Tam sophomore Fergus Campbell (Bert).

Phillipes, who plays the supporting role of Mrs. Brill, said the cast faced several challenges during opening night.

“Opening night was really fun, but a lot of things went wrong. Mics were fuzzy and one of our leads almost fell through the trapdoor, but everyone did a really great job of covering up mistakes,” Phillipes said. “The audience thought it was all hilarious, the show went on, and everyone had fun.”

Though Phillipes acknowledged that live theater does not always go according to plan, she said that the quality of the show improved throughout the course of the weekend.

Phillipes believes that her director’s decision to utilize a variety of  technical theater tools makes this version of “Mary Poppins” especially unique and challenging.

“It’s been a really difficult process because there are many set changes and it is a very technically advanced show,” Phillipes said. “There were so many people working on and off stage to put the production together, including some of the cast members.”

Sophomore Jake Hanssen works behind the scenes as an Assistant Director for the production.

Sophomore Jake Hanssen works on headset backstage left.

Sophomore Jake Hanssen works on headset backstage left.

“When our director doesn’t have time to spend on a certain scene, I work out the details with the stage manager and actually block it,” Hanssen said. “I have a lot of fun being able to work off the director’s ideas and morph the show based on my perspective.”

Hanssen said he and the director took artistic liberties when translating the musical from screen to stage.

“‘Mary Poppins’ is a show that I’ve known since I was a kid, but I think what makes this show different is the way in which we ordered it,” Hanssen said. “Theaters are granted some creative opportunity, so we were able to change the script around to create, what we thought, was the perfect show.”

Though the premise and general plot of “Mary Poppins” are intact, Phillipes said that many scenes take place in different locations in relation to the film’s respective counterparts in order to create better stage pictures.

“There are a lot of added characters on stage and many songs are switched around into different scenes for the sake of the story,” Phillipes said. “For example, in the movie, the kids, Mary, and Bert all sing ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ in Bert’s drawings. In the play, that song is sung in Mrs. Corey’s talking shop in the park, which isn’t as extravagant, but a much easier picture to put on stage.”

Fergus Campbell (Bert) and Caitlin Scannell (Mary Poppins) pose in character during a tech rehearsal.

Fergus Campbell (Bert) and Caitlin Scannell (Mary Poppins) pose in character during a tech rehearsal.

“Mary Poppins” is set on Cherry Tree Lane, in the home of two young children, Jane and Michael Banks. Though the siblings are prone to mischief, the arrival of “practically perfect” nanny Mary Poppins provides an entirely new outlook. Through a series of magical adventures, Poppins profoundly influences both children.

While Phillipes noted that live theater isn’t able to use as many special effects as films, she believes that the stage version is more effective at teaching the lessons and themes in “Mary Poppins.”

“We still have flying kites, moving statues, and toys putting themselves away, but our production of “Mary Poppins” really focuses on the lesson of how family and kindness is the most important aspect of a successful and happy life,” Phillipes said.

Hanssen believes that everyone who contributes to the production is equally important in telling the story of “Mary Poppins.”

“The theater is like a factory. You have the actors, a backstage crew, a production staff, and lighting and sound designers. It’s a specially designed machine that has to rely on all of its parts to work,” Hanssen said. “By helping in different areas of the production, I’m able to gain experience from each part rather than focus all of my time and learning on one aspect of the machine.”

Hanssen said his most valuable takeaway from “Mary Poppins” is real-world work experience.

The cast of “Mary Poppins” celebrates during intermission on opening night.

The cast of “Mary Poppins” celebrates during intermission on opening night.

“I only took Beginning Drama as a freshman, but from what I’ve seen and heard, the Throckmorton seems like more of a real life example of theater,” Hanssen said. “The Throckmorton is my business learning environment, and I think it really helps me understand how this career could work in the future.”

All three opening weekend performances played to sold out audiences, according to box office reports.

“Mary Poppins” will conclude its run this weekend, with a 7:30 p.m. show on Nov. 20, and 2:00 p.m. shows on Nov. 21 and Nov. 22. Tickets can be purchased online at www.throckmortontheatre.org or by calling the box office at 415.383.9600.