DECATUR – Enter a magical world where chimney sweeps dance on rooftops, toys come to life and a famous nanny flies through the air.
“‘Mary Poppins’ ‘is all about magic and being able to accomplish anything if you set your mind to it,” said director Lauren Cantrell Salerno. “I feel like after this past year, coming out From this time of quarantine and overcoming the pandemic, we need a little magic in our lives and we need a little unity.”
The Dream Weavers Children’s Theater will perform “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical” this weekend at the Princess Theater in downtown Decatur. The show will begin Friday at 7 p.m. with additional performances on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors.
Expect to hear the classic songs “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, “Jolly Holiday”, “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Feed the Birds”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, as well as new songs “Play the Game” and “Anything Can Happen”.
While some songs and scenes will be familiar to “Mary Poppins” fans, the musical brings a fresh take on the iconic story, based on books by PL Travers and the Walt Disney Original Film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. . . Julian Fellowes, creator of “Downtown Abbey”, wrote the book for the Broadway musical.
“It’s quite different. Some songs are in different places, there are new characters, and some characters are different from the movie ones. It draws heavily from Travers’ book in that way,” Salerno said.
Leading the 75-member cast is EA Gonzalez as Mary Poppins.
To prepare for the role of Mary, Gonzalez, who described the character as having more bite and edge than in the film, studied how the various actresses portrayed by Mary Poppins played the part.
“The good thing about this character is that now, because there have been so many professional productions of the musical version, so many fantastic women have played Mary. They all sound different and bring something new to the table. It’s been fun for me to reenact my Mary,” Gonzalez said.
One of Gonzalez’s favorite moments occurs when she sings “Feed the Birds” with Susan Thompson.
“It’s beautiful, iconic and important. It’s a good deep moment for Mary. There’s so much magic and fantasy, this song kind of brings her back to Earth and reminds the kids how important it is. to see people for who they are,” Gonzalez said. “Plus being able to share the stage with Susan is a treat.”
Drew Sybert is in charge of bringing to life the role of Bert, the character made famous by Van Dyke.
“Dick Van Dyke is obviously a legend. This character is so rich, however, that it’s easy to put your own twist and personality on it while still being that familiar character that people know,” Sybert said. I think my Bert is fun, pretty silly and has a lot of energy all the time.”
For the child lead roles of Jane and Michael Banks, Salerno dubbed the characters. Mary Reed McMasters and Avery Early will share the role of Jane, and Aiden Hodges and Joshua Minnon will play Michael.
“Only two kids are on the show as originally written and I wanted to give the kids as many opportunities as possible,” Salerno said. “We also created a set of 25 children, who join in the big numbers and a song where the toys come to life.”
For Minnon, the role of Michael represents a dream.
“I was at football practice when I found out I had the role of Michael. I was so happy,” said 12-year-old Minnon. “I’ve watched the movie almost every day since. . I love this piece so much.”
Along with Sybert, Gonzalez, McMasters, Early, Hodges and Minnon, the cast includes Brandon McLemore as George Banks, Melissa McMahan as Winifred Banks, Amber Eckenrode as Katie Nanna, Collin Riddell as Robertson Ay, Debra Davenport as Mrs. Brill, Ben Callahan as as Admiral Boom, Courtney Blanchette as Miss Andrew, Emily Williquette as Mrs. Correy, and Thompson as Birdwoman.
For the first time, Dream Weavers will present a sensory performance of “Mary Poppins”. During the Saturday morning the lights in the house will not be as dim and talking and moving around will be permitted. Salerno will also compile a list of actions and events to expect in the play.
“It’s really important that everyone can be themselves and experience live theater without worry,” Salerno said. “We should do a sensory show for every production, no doubt, especially children’s shows.”
With over 125 people auditioning for the musical, Salerno sees an increasing interest and love for the performing arts in Decatur.
“I feel like Decatur is on the cusp of something big. It’s like we’re desperate for the arts and we crave it. The energy is there. It’s a great show to bring that energy and that magic to the princess,” Salerno said.