Featuring a 42-member cast, singing, dancing and high-flying effects, Muskegon Civic Theatre hopes to fill Frauenthal Theater and wow audiences with its spring musical, Mary Poppins.
A magical and loving woman named Mary Poppins arrives on the scene to rescue a young and dysfunctional family who can’t keep a nanny. The musical is based on the 1964 Disney movie, one of the most popular and critically acclaimed Disney films of all time, with some elements from the book mixed in.
Bert, narrator and jack-of-all-trades, introduces the audience to the Banks family. It’s 1910 in Edwardian London, and father George Banks returns home from his job at the bank to find another nanny has quit due to the mischievous antics of Jane and Michael.
The magic begins when Poppins descends on their doorstep, hires herself for the job and starts to teach the family how to value each other again.
Filled with laughter and fantasy, she takes the children on several magical and memorable adventures, while devising a plan to make serious George appreciate time with his children. The all-ages show features musical numbers from the movie such as Feed the Birds, Jolly Holiday, Step in Time, A Spoonful of Sugar, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the Academy Award-winning Chim-Chim Cher-ee.
Director Jason Bertoia and two of the musical’s main stars, Maddie Fox as Mary Poppins and Jarod Peterson as Bert, all said they grew up loving the movie.
“It’s such a touching story, because it’s so real to so many people,” Fox said. “It’s dealing with a broken family that desperately needs relationships restored. So many people can relate to that, whether you are a child going through that or a parent.”
Bertoia, who heads the musical theater program at Western Michigan Christian High School, said more than 70 people auditioned. He praised the cast and crew for their synergy, energy and talent.
“The 42 (people) we have are some of the most amazing talent in the greater Muskegon area,” he said. “Besides the technical magic of the show, it’s the cast. We’ve seen a lot of them in various roles in previous shows for MCT and elsewhere and they have come together in this amazing, magical group.”
Fox, a Mona Shores High School graduate, was active in the school’s drama and musical theater programs. Home this semester from college in Chicago, the 23-year-old Fox also appeared in MCT’s Legally Blonde in 2014 and hopes to bring some of her own personality to the role.
“MCT is committed to bringing as much magic to the show as possible,” she said. “There will be flying. There will be incredible dance numbers. The magic that you feel in the movie is being incorporated in new and fresh ways into this stage show.”
Peterson said he wanted to play Bert because “he is such a kooky character” and the role fits his personality. Poppins and Bert both have an air of mystery to them, and Bert joins Poppins and the children on some of their fairytale journeys. He appears with various jobs, seemingly to assist, and it’s never quite revealed if they are working as a secret team.
“There’s so many theories (about Bert and Mary),” he said. “I believe they are not of this world — they’re both guardian angels looking after the world. They work as a team, trying to bring the light back to everybody they come in contact with.”