Photo by Linda Kor
The Holbrook High School Choir will present Mary Poppins on Fridays and Saturdays, April 8, 9, 15 and 16. Cast members include (left to right) Levi McClellan as Bert, Kaleb Smith as Michael Banks, Savana Shumway as Mary Poppins, Tyler Christensen as George Banks, Amy Nilsson as Jane Banks and Brennan O’Hair as Bank Chairman.
By Linda Kor
Holbrook High School will soon be presenting the musical Mary Poppins, the culmination of months of practice and preparation by students, volunteers and Director Kyle Gardner.
When asked why he picked Mary Poppins, Gardner replied that his students actually decided what play would be performed. “You don’t pick a play because it’s fun, you look and see what fits your students. I’d seen the play done on stage before, and I realized that Savana would be a perfect Mary Poppins and Levi, a perfect Bert,” he noted.
Gardner believes that the audience will be especially pleased to see the play if all they’ve seen is the movie. “You think that if you’ve seen the movie, then the play will be the same, but it’s very different,” the director explained. “The play is a much richer, deeper story. It shows more about the problems within the family. Mary Poppins is not there for the kids, but for the parents to help them become better at who they want to be.”
Savana Shumway was chosen for the role of Mary Poppins, and watching her rehearse shows that she’s put a great deal of work into the role as she moves effortlessly through the dance numbers, smiling as she sings. “I’ve been working on the accent since November, but I think the memorizing is the hardest. I’m in all but three scenes and have tons of lines,” she said.
When told that she seemed to enjoy the role, she said her fellow actors made it that way. “I love being on stage with people who love it as much as I do,” she noted.
A senior, Savana explained how performing on stage has had an impact on her life. “I’m kind of anti-social, so this really helps me to burst out of that bubble; because of theater, I’m not afraid to be myself,” she professed.
She went on to say how community support has also been so important. “The town really comes together to help with the sets, costumes and choreography. I’m so grateful to them for wanting to put in the time,” said Savana.
Levi McClellan, who plays Mary Poppins’ longtime friend Bert, seems custom-fit for the role with his long, lanky build and ear-to-ear grin. Also a senior and a veteran actor in Missoula Children’s Theater productions, Levi feels at ease in the role of Bert aside from one thing: “The accent is really hard. Everyone else is proper English and I’m doing a cockney accent, so sometimes it’s confusing. But I’ve watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and movies since November.
“I really like Bert,” he said with a smile. “Everyone things he’s just a chimney sweep, but he does so much more. He’s a dancer, artist, philosopher and can be silly with an element of seriousness.”
Although not new to the stage, it wasn’t until his freshman year that Levi was able to overcome his stage fright. He attributes acting with helping him to be comfortable amongst his peers. “It’s made me a lot more outgoing and confident,” he commented.
Kaleb Smith and Amy Nilsson, both seventh graders, play the roles of Michael and Jane Banks, and both are thoroughly enjoying the experience.
“I don’t have much opportunity to be in plays, so this is really exciting for me. The hardest part is showing the emotions. It involves a lot of facial expression so that the audience understands how things are affecting you without words,” explained Kaleb.
Amy’s only concern was balancing school with the arts. “The hardest part is organizing my time. Practice is when I’m usually doing my homework, so that’s probably the most difficult thing,” she explained.
When asked what she valued most about the experience, Amy replied, “I’ve enjoyed the friendships the most. It’s never sad here, even if it’s been a bad day. I think the best part is that you can express yourself. The arts are definitely important.”
Even though a stellar performance is almost guaranteed, the visual effects will also be impressive. HHS art teacher Dwayne Hawk lent his talents to painting the backdrops, while David Smith used his carpentry skills to create a very impressive home for the Banks family. The very talented Loni Hatch also lent her skills in teaching the performers their dance techniques.
This is a practically perfect production not to be missed, and will be presented on Fridays and Saturdays, April 8, 9, 15 and 16, at the George Gardner Performing Arts Center on the HHS campus.