‘Mary Poppins Jr.’ debuts at North Hills Middle School
Audiences’ favorite nanny will take center stage in the North Hills Drama Club’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious musical, “Mary Poppins Jr.,” on Jan. 31 through Feb. 2 in the North Hills Middle School auditorium.
The 70-minute, one-act middle school production is based on the Broadway musical and one of the most popular Disney movies of all time. Specially adapted for middle school performers, the show combines the timeless story, unforgettable songs and breathtaking dance numbers that made Mary Poppins famous.
Bert, the narrator and a good friend to Mary Poppins, introduces the audience to the troubled Banks family, who lives in England in 1910.
Youngsters Jane and Michael Banks have depleted numerous nannies before Mary Poppins arrives on their doorstep.
Using a combination of magic and common sense, Mary Poppins must teach the family members how to value each other again.
She takes the children on many magical and memorable adventures, but Jane and Michael aren’t the only ones upon whom she has a profound effect.
Even grown-ups can learn a lesson or two from the nanny who advises that “Anything can happen if you let it.”
North Hills’ production will feature a cast and ensemble of 52 students from grades 7 through 9.
Ninth-grader Beth Satariano, 14, is thrilled to play the title role.
“There are so many great songs,” she said. “I love this show.”
Satariano sings with the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Girls Choir.
“She has such a pure tone and her singing is technically strong,” said director Lisa Marcellus.
Eighth-grader Brady Lawrence, 13, plays the role of Bert. This is his 10th production, having been active with Paragon Studios — an acting, musical theater and voice school — since kindergarten.
“My favorite scene is the Jolly Holiday scene. It’s pretty early in the show, when the actors and ensemble are walking in the park with Mary Poppins. It’s very energetic and there’s a lot of dancing,” he said. “The whole show is really fun. There really are no dull moments.”
Many in the cast consider the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious scene to be the showstopper, and are confident it will be a huge crowd-pleaser.
“We spent a lot of time working on that scene, and it’s great,” said seventh-grader Regan Borsch, 12, who plays Jane Banks.
“That scene will definitely wow audiences,” added Marcellus.
One of the biggest challenges of the show, according to Marcellus, is the number of scene changes.
“Most productions have about seven to 10 scene changes throughout the show. This one has 19,” she said.
Another challenge is managing the 140 different costumes and quick costume changes as ensemble members portray a vast array of people and things — ranging from chimney sweeps to park strollers, from honeybees to statues — throughout the show.
Marcellus and the directing team chose “Mary Poppins Jr.” as this year’s musical because a middle school-level version had just been released.
“It was new, so we knew it would be fresh,” Marcellus said.
At the time, she was not aware that Disney would be releasing the movie, “Mary Poppins Returns,” in theaters Dec. 19, but believes the timing is a bonus.
“I’m an elementary school teacher, and more and more of my students are telling me they just saw the new movie” Marcellus said.
“They tell me how much they loved it and now they can’t wait to see the musical.”
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.