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Audiences Delighted by 'Mary Poppins, Jr.'
Mound Westonka High School eighth-graders Savanna Newell as Mary Poppins and Connor Houston as Bert
May 2, 2019 — Over 1,100 community members packed four performances of Disney’s "Mary Poppins, Jr." at the Westonka Performing Arts Center (PAC) April 25-28. Produced by the Grandview Middle School Theatre and Westonka Community Education, the musical involved over 100 students in the cast and crew.
In “Mary Poppins,” based on the popular Disney movie and the award-winning Broadway musical, jack-of-all trades Bert introduces the audience to England in 1910 and the troubled Banks family. Young Jane and Michael have sent many a nanny packing before Mary Poppins arrives on their doorstep. Using a combination of magic and common sense, she must teach the family members how to value each other again. Mary Poppins 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."
“We were so thrilled and excited to perform in the new Westonka Performing Arts Center,” said long-time director Mary Todd Kaercher. Kaercher’s assistant again this year was Max Taggart, Mound Westonka High School class of 2017. Kelly Newell, PAC coordinator, assisted Taggart. Volunteers Scott Brown and Jeff Fish donated hours of time to make Taggert’s vision of the Banks’ house a reality. Krista Clark delighted the audience with her mesmerizing make-up skills.
Cast members included Savanna Newell as Mary Poppins, Connor Houston as Bert, Jack Hansen as George Banks, Anna Borg as Winifred Banks, Sidney Carlin as Jane Banks, Thomas Duggan as Michael Banks, Caryn Childers as Katie Nanna and the Bird Woman, Maureen Reilly as Mrs. Brill, Wesley Stamm as Robertson Ay, Serenity Bownik as Martha, Gianni D’Arpino as Neleus, Giana Meyer as Miss Smythe, Cece Linkert as the Chairman, Will Courneya as Von Hussler, Dima Andela as John Northbrook, Piper Kimbrel as Mrs. Corry, Eve Seckinger as Miss Andrew, Tristen Larson as the Policeman and Carter Hodgen as the Messenger.
Behind the scenes, choreographers were Jacob Becker and Halley Deirbeck. The stage manager was Josh Nkata, assisted by Keylee Winter. Stage crew members were Ayda Dirks, Jadie Heinsch and Alexis Henderson.
Kaercher thanked the students’ parents, who made props and sewed chorus costumes, but most importantly got their actors to rehearsal, fed them, loved them and made them “wonderful humans.”
"Mary Poppins" offered students a wonderful opportunity for inclusion, inspiration, validation and self-confidence, but it went much further than that, Kaercher mused in the program. She dedicated the show to her brother, Ted Wise, a successful and dedicated football coach in central Illinois, who died on March 18 of this year.
Families, and even countries, are filled with all sorts of people with different interests, outlooks and attitudes, but finding the similarities and celebrating them is what makes human culture and human nature – human.
In Mary Poppins, we found so many lessons, different people, ideas and attitudes. We talked about finding what works for you in life and the ability to change perspectives and remain flexible. We talked about respecting boundaries, respecting others, and in doing that, being able to respect ourselves. I hope you can see the moment our characters found their change, and their growth, because each one has one. Except Mary Poppins, Bert, and my brother—because they are practically perfect in every way.