A spoonful of sugar

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The Bellerose High Music and Performing Arts Program is determined to give audiences a night to remember with the stage-musical Mary Poppins.

Director Mark Samuel had wanted to mount it for years. Not only was it a hit receiving seven Tony nominations after its Broadway debut in 2006, but his students kept requesting it year-after-year.

Unfortunately, Disney opted to cash in on the successful project taking it on tour across North America making the rights unavailable to the general public.

Keeping in close contact with Musical Theatre International, the licensing agency, Samuel received an early-morning email in Oct. 2014 stating that rights were available. By 1 p.m. that day, he had secured them.

Finally this year, the cast and crew will be plying audiences with a spoonful of sugar on Feb. 9 to 11 p.m. at the Arden Theatre.

This project boasts a company of 80 students: 35 actors on stage, 25 production/technical crew and 20 musicians – one of the school’s biggest undertakings.

This tale of an airborne nanny that sweeps into the lives of dysfunctional family is nostalgic fun at its best. But underneath the fluff there’s a very real lesson – that there is more to life than making money. Staying connected to family is the foundation of a happy existence.

“It’s a classic story of redemption. It’s people struggling in life and finding their way,” said Samuel.

Do Mary and Bert, the chimney sweep, fly in this production?

Absolutely said Samuel adding that the Las Vegas based Flying By Foy, the world’s foremost operators of stage flight equipment will handle the controls.

“We had a lot of conversations about the safety of children,” said Samuel. “But it’s a very safe system used in countless places all over the world.”

The immortal classics by the original composers Richard and Robert Sherman sweep the stage with the Oscar winning Chim Chim Cher-ee and the pretzel-tongued Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

In the stage version, a few songs from the film have been removed such as Sister Suffragette and I Love to Laugh. However, the British team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe were co-opted to include a few classics of their own such as Practically Perfect and Anything Can Happen.

Some of these songs demand a large amount of technical bravado, and for the role of the brisk nanny, Samuel cast Anikka Hanson.

“She’s fantastic. She’s perfect for the role. Anikka is beautiful dancer and has loads of experience. In addition to the role of Mary Poppins, she’s choreographed the show. Because of her dancing background, she has the right posture for Mary – strict but loving. And her voice is beautiful. She works very hard with Karen Lebahn, our music director, but also supplements it with music training outside school.”

Matt Dejanovic, a member of the Citadel Young Company, landed the role of Bert.

“He’s Mary’s counterpart. He has to be playful, gentle and a capable athlete. The role is perfect for Matt.”

Sadie Samuel, 9, a Grade 4 Leo Nickerson student and Connor Woodley, 8, of St. Albert Children’s Theatre are cast respectively as Jane and Michael.

And Kiera Romans nabbed the role of Winnifred, the disoriented mother while Adam Schafer is cast as George, the stuffy father.

It is a small role, but one to watch is that of Mrs. Andrews, the terrible nanny that makes grown men quake. Grace Bokenfohr, 17, a Citadel Young Company member and aspiring opera singer, takes audiences on a special vocal journey in her big song Brimstone and Treacle.

“She not only has natural voice, but she’s a powerhouse. Brimstone and Treacle requires a magnificent voice of trained individual and she’s something else to listen to.”

For more information call Bellerose High at 780-8490.

Preview

Mary Poppins
Bellerose High Music and Performing Arts Program
Feb. 9 to 11 at 7 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $10 to $20 Call 780-460-8490

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.