Turners Falls students preparing for ‘Mary Poppins’ production

  • Cast members prepare for their production of “Mary Poppins” at a dress rehearsal on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Cast members prepare for their production of “Mary Poppins” at a dress rehearsal on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Cast members prepare for their production of “Mary Poppins” at a dress rehearsal on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • “Mary Poppins” Director Kimberly Rose helps an actor get into costume at a dress rehearsal on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • “Mary Poppins” Director Kimberly Rose gives students a pep talk at a dress rehearsal on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 3/23/2022 5:00:10 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Student thespians at Great Falls Middle School and Turners Falls High School are preparing for their production of “Mary Poppins” this week, the school’s first musical to feature live singing since before the pandemic began.

“This is the most focused group of kids we’ve ever had,” Director Kimberly Rose said.

Throughout the pandemic, schools were barred from allowing live singing during on-stage performances for fear of its potential to spread COVID-19. Musicals put on in Turners Falls during the pandemic had students lip-sync behind clear masks to pre-recorded singing tracks. Those involved with “Mary Poppins” were prepared for more of the same when, around a month ago, the policy changed to once again allow live singing, leaving performers just a short window of time to adjust.

This situation, Rose said, contributed to the 46-student cast and crew’s level of commitment. The musical’s stars echoed the notion that such focus has never been felt behind the curtain.

“I’ve been in two other productions and other casts — especially (last summer’s production of) ‘Matilda,’ was kind of disconnected,” said Nova Shipley-Aja, a seventh-grader who plays Michael Banks. “I think this cast is one of the best ones we’ve had.”

“I think all our dances … are really fun and everyone’s in sync and you can really feel that,” said Izzy Vachula-Curtis, a sophomore who plays Mary Poppins.

Both actors added that their sights were set on coming back with a bang, considering COVID-19 kept many students away from the stage.

“I feel like coming back from COVID,” Izzy said, “we wanted to make it the best we can.”

“I think we just wanted to prove we can do well after taking so much time away from theater and the stage,” Nova said.

Others, like sixth-grader Bella Trinque and junior David Stowe, attributed their focus to the faith that staff held in them as the theater program reorganized.

“This is my first-ever production I’ve ever been in, but it was really … shocking when I got the role of Jane (Banks),” Bella said.

“They’re all really nice to work with and they make it seem so smooth,” David said. “They want us to have a good mental mindspace.”

In terms of the performance itself, actors are looking forward to the audience experiencing their creativity.

“I watched the movie and I’ll say if you were expecting anything like you see in the movie, you’ll be in for a big surprise,” Nova said.

“Mary Poppins,” which was directed by Robert Stevenson and released as a Disney-produced film in 1964, involves a nanny using unconventional methods to improve the dynamic within a dysfunctional family. Students were careful not to provide too many spoilers, but revealed that those in attendance can expect alterations, such as a Mary Poppins who is more stern and the unfortunate lack of penguins paving the way for what Nova called some “really interesting” choreography in their production. Rose added that the set, built by MakerLab teacher Brian Lamore, is “astronomical.”

“This is my favorite Mary Poppins,” Bella said.

Those interested in attending Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School’s production of “Mary Poppins” can do so Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. or Sunday at 2 p.m.

Reach Julian Mendoza
at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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