Little Theatre

The Banks children (Tommy Woodburn, center, and Isabella Locke) size up their new nanny, Mary Poppins (Jessica Holloway) in a scene from the Muskogee Little Theatre production of “Mary Poppins.”

Newness abounds in Muskogee Little Theatre’s production of “Mary Poppins” — new music, new characters, even a new building.

MLT opens its new theater, 311 S. Third St., with the 2006 Broadway musical, “Mary Poppins,” this weekend and next weekend. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Oct. 20, 21 and 22, as well as 2 p.m. Sunday.

The family musical is adapted from children’s books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney movie.

However, MLT Director Chrissie Wagner advises people to “get the movie out of their heads.”

Wagner said the musical features additional characters, additional songs and different arrangements of songs from the movie.

“It’s based on three of the four ‘Mary Poppins’ books,” she said.

Play-goers still can expect the same storyline about a peculiar nanny who swoops into the lives of two British children.

Seth Arnold, who plays Mary’s buddy, Bert, said the story is “very relatable.”

“It’s a classic tale of caring and family,” he said.

Jessica Holloway, who plays Mary Poppins, said her biggest challenge has been “speaking in an English accent.”

Holloway said she did turn to the movie Mary, played by Julie Andrews, for inspiration.

“Julie Andrews really pretty much epitomizes Mary Poppins,” she said.

One character not found in the movie is Miss Andrew, a sadistic nanny brought in by the children’s father, George Banks.

“She was George’s former nanny,” said Juliet Burk, who plays Miss Andrew. “She comes in and ‘saves the day.’ She has ruthless, authoritarian views of nannying.”

Matthew Ryan Price, who plays the stern father, said his character seems “angrier” than the father in the movie.

Price and Meaghan McCawley, who plays the mother, agreed that the production has been intensive.”

“It’s a very big show,” McCawley said, adding there are about 40 to 50 in the cast. 

“And the sets are so big, it requires a big crew backstage,” she said.

The backstage crew includes more than a dozen people handling props, moving sets, helping people dress, even “flying” backdrops and characters up and down.

“This is huge because the musical has lots and lots of moving parts,” Wagner said.

Stage manager Beverly Boyer asked “ever see set pieces so big?”

“They have to be, because Mary Poppins is bigger than life,” Boyer said. She said six crew members must move a set piece with a flight of stairs.

“The kitchen is like a book that has to be opened up,” she said. “The table has to be carried off.”

MLT officials selected the elaborate musical to open their new $6 million theater. The new theater features a larger stage than the former theater, which was in an old elementary school. The stage features a fly gallery, where crew members use ropes to raise and lower set pieces. An orchestra pit is in front of the stage, but out of audience view.

The new theater also features more and larger dressing rooms, a make-up room and costume areas.

“This is just a fantastic time in Muskogee to see the vision,” Wagner said. 

Holloway said she cannot compare what it’s like performing in the old theater to performing in the new one.

“It is so brand new,” Holloway said. “I’m bringing the spirit of the old theater into the new theater.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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