Arts & Theater

Mary Poppins Jr. offers a twist on a classic, performed by Sacramento area kids

The all-children cast of Mary Poppins Jr. will perform this weekend at Sacramento Theatre Company.
The all-children cast of Mary Poppins Jr. will perform this weekend at Sacramento Theatre Company.

The Banks family at No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane in London is about to be visited by a very special nanny and theatergoers can catch the magic live. Mary Poppins Jr. is coming to town courtesy of Sacramento Theatre Company’s School of the Arts.

This show stars 57 talented young people who are split between two casts. All the performers are kids, ages 7 to 13, and the show is stage managed by Megan J. West, the education production coordinator for STC.

Mary Poppins Jr. is similar to the Broadway show, but it has been condensed and the music has been changed to cater to younger performers.

“Mary Poppins Jr. is a newer show. We received notice that the Jr. version was becoming available, and loved the idea of being able to fit it in our season right around the time of the sequel coming out. We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for the children in the show to be able to get a look at the continuation of the story and be a great way to draw in new audience members who may not see as much live theater,” said Bridget Styles, communications coordinator for Sacramento Theatre Company.

Mary Poppins Jr. is a musical based on a mix of the stories of P.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney film. It is a slightly abridged version of the Broadway musical, with new songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

While there are many new numbers in this production, fans can still expect to hear “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and “Step in Time.”

Julian Fellowes, who is best known for being the Academy Award-winning screenwriter from Gosford Park and creator, writer and executive producer of Downton Abby, said in an email interview he was thrilled to learn that children would be helming Sacramento’s production.

“I am delighted that the Sacramento Theatre Company is mounting a production of Mary Poppins Jr, performed by a company of young people. As we all know, Mary Poppins, herself, dedicates her time to helping young boys and girls find their own way to realise their dreams, so what more appropriate way could there be of celebrating her legend? I send them all my best wishes,” Fellowes said in an email.

Involving children in theater is nothing new for Sacramento Theatre Company. Its School of the Arts offers weekly classes, performance opportunities and more. STC offers a School Partnership Program where schools across the Sacramento area can participate in an immersive after-school program, a theater arts integration classroom residency program and professional development for teachers in theater arts integration.

“Our mission at STC is to be the leader in integrating professional theater with theater arts education,” Styles said. “Our School of the Arts helps us to meet that goal. We offer camps, classes, and productions for those who may want to try theater out, but aren’t ready to make a full year long commitment and we also offer conservatory programs for those grades 4-12 for those who are interested in a more rigorous program. Our School of the Arts is designed to be able to reach students of all ages, and provide opportunities to enrich lives with the power of theater .”

Auditions were open to all children between 7 and 13 and took place in September, with performers coming in with a memorized 1-2 minute song in addition to a 1-2 minute monologue to perform. After that, the team worked to cast the most appropriate roles with the best child for each part.

Rehearsals began in October. The play is directed by Lisa Dillon, with Andrea J. Love serving as musical director and Jerald Bolden as the choreographer. The design team includes Renee DeGarmo for the sets, Andrew Fiffick with lighting and Gina Coyle on costume design.

The next Sacramento Theatre Company School of the Arts production will be The Tempest for Kids. Auditions will take place Feb. 5 and 6.

In the meantime, Mary Poppins Jr. promises to delight anyone who wants to see a twist on a familiar musical.

“This show is great for the entire family. It’s a story that is widely known and loved. For our more mature generation, it will bring back fantastic memories, and for our young children, it is a great show to introduce them to the magic of live theater,” Styles said.

If you go

What: Sacramento Theatre Company School of the Arts presents Mary Poppins Jr.

Where: Sacramento Theatre Company, Main Stage, 1419 H Street, Sacramento, CA

When: January 10-13, 2019

Performance Times: 7 p.m, Thursday, Jan. 10; 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13

Tickets: $15-17. Online at tickets.sactheatre.org; by phone at 916-443-6722.

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