Foothills Theatre’s summer production of “Mary Poppins” opens Saturday, with additional shows slated for next weekend. The play will be on the stage in Elkin High School’s Dixon Auditorium, located at 334 Elk Spur St., July 23 at 7:30 p.m., July 24 at 2:30 p.m., July 29 and 30 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the door. Ticket prices are $10 for teens and adults, $7 for children 12 and under.
“This is my first time directing and I think I have a great cast,” said Kim Arnold. “They’ve really been helpful because I’ve had so many experienced cast members.” Arnold has done the choreography for many shows at Foothills Theatre and Elkin High School, but this is her first time in the director’s chair.
The cast has been working hard these last few weeks as they’ve rehearsed for the show, show organizers said. The crew, too, has put in many long hours designing, building and painting the set, they said.
The play is based on the Disney film as well as the original story by P.L. Travers. Audience members will likely remember some of the songs made famous by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, such as “Jolly Holiday” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” The musical also has some new tunes created especially for the stage production.
Many of the cast members said that the film was a favorite of theirs growing up.
“When I was 5 years old I used to run around with a potato masher and pretend it was my umbrella,” said Melissa Lawrence, who plays the title role of Mary Poppins.
Lawrence studied opera at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She said she got her love of music at a young age, inspired by her grandfather Jim Porter, who was a much beloved band director in his hometown in West Virginia.
Lawrence said the bird woman song is one of her favorite scenes in the play because it is so sweet and heartwarming. Adding another touch of fun is the fact that Lawrence and her mother, Sarah Lawrence, who plays not-so-nice nanny Mrs. Andrew, engage in a dramatic singing battle during the reprise of the song “Brimstone and Treacle.”
Playing the role of this famed British nanny has been a great treat, Lawrence said.
“Always be yourself, unless you can be Mary Poppins, then be Mary Poppins,” she said with a magical laugh.
The appeal of the show touches so many, said Christine Werner Booher, who plays Mrs. Banks.
“I feel so humbled and honored to be part of this show. Growing up on Disney I appreciate the feel-good quality and the fact that there is something that everyone can relate to in some way,” she said.
Foothills Theatre is celebrating its 48th season this year during which local actors have performed in “Over the River and Through The Woods” as well as two Art in the Garden productions at Foothills Arts Council, including “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and an original play written by Arts Council Executive Director Leighanne Martin Wright.
Wright said she is proud of the local performers who give of their time by volunteering with these productions and she hopes that the community will continue to support its local theater group. Though not in the director’s seat this summer, Wright has worked tirelessly on “Mary Poppins” helping to design, build and paint the set, assisting with costume creation, lights, sound and more.
“Community theater encourages and nourishes the talent in our community,” Wright said. “Many of those talented folks are young people, just beginning to explore where their talents can take them. It is educational for both the cast member and theater-goer. It broadens one’s view and life experience.
“Community theater cannot survive without the support of the community — ie, the audience. Artful expression is vital for a community to thrive. You may not be able to buy an expensive piece of artwork, but you probably could afford the price of admission to see a local production. And the community theater group appreciates the time invested and will work tirelessly to provide quality entertainment.”
“Please come see ‘Mary Poppins’ July 23, 24, 29 or 30,” Wright added. “We’ve got a six-piece orchestra — many were with us for last summer’s production of ‘Chicago’ — incredible singers, phenomenal dancers (Tappers!) and it’s plain out just going to be fun.”
The cast of “Mary Poppins” features Melissa Lawrence of Mount Airy as everyone’s favorite magical nanny, Mary Poppins; Scott Carpenter of Mount Airy as chimney sweep and best friend to all, Bert; David Nielsen of Elkin as the overworked father, George Banks; Christine Werner Booher of Elkin as the distracted mother, Winifred Banks; and Alli Pardue of Hamptonville and Jaron Nunnemaker of Jonesville as the Banks children in need of a nanny, and of fun, Jane and Michael.
Cast members in roles as well as the ensemble include Susan Lawrence of Dobson as Mrs. Brill, Dru Billings of Mount Airy as Robertson Ay, Aspen Jackson of Elkin as the bird woman, Morgan Harrison of Boonville as the park keeper and Von Hussler, Kitsey Burns Harrison of Boonville as Katie Nanna, Sarah Lawrence of Mount Airy as Miss Andrews, Mary Keller of Elkin as Miss Lark, Mary Johnson of Elkin as Miss Smythe, Vicky Zickmund of Mocksville as Mrs. Correy, Aaron Blackwelder of Elkin as the bank chairman, Tyler Zickmund of Mocksville as Neleus, Addison Blackwelder of Elkin as Valentine, and Gabriel Hammesfahr of Boonville as Admiral Boom.
The ensemble includes Neil Green of Elkin, Sadie Keller of Elkin, Isabella Brumfield of Elkin, Molly Gibson of Hamptonville, Sandra Hammesfahr of Boonville, Amy Cockerham of Mount Airy, Eva Bey of East Bend, Claire Grider of Elkin, Nicole Freeman of Elkin, Lucas Keller of Elkin, Henry Freeman of Elkin, Cassidy Transou of Elkin, Gracie Briggs of Elkin, Ada Blackwelder of Elkin.
Musical director and keyboardist for the production is Tommy Jackson. Also performing in the orchestra will be Josh Casstevens on bass, Doug Woolard on trumpet, Carlos Tolbert on reeds, Guy Kelpin on horn and percussionist Guy Kelpin. Sound and lighting assistants are Grace and Christie Harrison.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram at @RippleReporterK.