Mary Poppins Jr.

Poppins Jr logoThe tale of the practically perfect nanny Mary Poppins comes to Class Act Productions (CAP-Altoona) and their youth theatre beginning November 2. It’s an occasion to be noted, both for the fact that they celebrate the beloved nanny’s birthday (one of the P.L. Travers original stories notes her birthday is November 1), and also commemorates that Mary Poppins Jr. is the 100th production by the Altoona group over its dozen year history.

 

In talking to Mary Poppins Jr. director Thatcher Williams, he outlined a bit of the history. “Before there was a CAP theatre, Mary Blakemore started Altoona Children’s Theatre a few years prior. Before moving into the old Moose Lodge which is now our home, ACT/CAP performed in a variety of venues in the area – including Rising Sun Church, Four Mile Elementary School, and Bondurant High School. Though there are always little hills and valleys, CAP has been fortunate to continue its growth from day one. We are extremely humbled by the community support of our theatre.”

CAP-Altoona“Just in the past 4 years we have completely replaced all our lighting, completed upgrades on our electric wiring and installed new HVAC systems. This is on top of new tools for building sets, new tech booth computer and software, and more. And finally, we continue to see growth in interest from young performers to work with us with each show. In the past dozen years, we have seen over 1,000 roles performed by young actors and tens of thousands of youth in our seats watching their peers reach for their dreams on stage.”

Family Nanny

Much as CAP Theatre has been a guiding light for so many young people, Mary Poppins is there to provide guidance (and just a little bit of magic) to the lives of the Banks children in the story. In fact, Poppins provides the entire family the magic to realize how much they need each other. Williams has done his homework, and is familiar with not only the classic Disney retelling, but also the original stories of Mary Poppins written by P.L Travers, and there honestly are a number of differences.

“If you saw Saving Mr. Banks - which was a dramatized version of how Walt Disney convinced P.L. Travers to allow him to make the movie – you will remember that she was no fan of the cartoon theatrics of Mr. Disney. She relented, at least based upon the movie, because both she and Mr. Disney wanted to share a story about the importance of family and, most specifically, the importance of the salvation of the father in the story (and their own fathers). The musical does more closely resemble the movie – however, this Mary Poppins is a bit more hardnosed and matter-of-fact than one you might remember on the big screen. She has a bit more of the original Mary Poppins…. Pop!

Poppins familyAs a father himself (with a daughter who happens to also be in this production of Mary Poppins Jr.), Williams is well aware of the relationships portrayed in the show, and the importance of those connections. “Mary Poppins is more than a show about a woman who comes into a family’s life to transform it. This is a story about a mother, a father, and two children who learn more about themselves because they are able to see each other through the eyes of Mary Poppins.”

“The children are initially spoiled brats who look down upon servants and up those who are less off than they are. We have a mother who is attempting to be a socialite, in the most uncomfortable way. And we have a father who must make a choice between a good idea or a good man in whom to invest. And then, over the course of 70 minutes or so, we see the children realize that sometimes a family is upside down, that sometimes fathers need the help and guidance of their children and wife. That wives need the help of their children and husband. And that a good man is much rarer and more important a find than a good idea.”

Community Nanny

The story of Mary Poppins is beloved by many, to the point where some are rather possessive of the character. As Williams relates, “P.L. Travers once received a not-so-fan letter from a young boy who was quite peeved that Mary Poppins left at the end of the book – saying that he would never forgive Ms. Travers for having Mary Poppins leave the Banks. However, Mary Poppins is a traveler, a little Gallifreyan, perhaps – she is a spark for a fire that is the potential in all of us.”

Poppins KitesThat potential is what CAP-Altoona desires most strongly to enhance and grow in everyone involved in their productions. CAP is a completely volunteer organization, no matter what age or position. According to Williams, “We do talk with our young actors about the importance of giving back, and how acting in our shows give them the ability to ‘walk a mile in another’s shoes.’” They also encourage their audiences to “give back” as well, typically adopting a particular charity for each production and asking patrons to bring items to donate to those causes. 

Considering one of the songs in Mary Poppins Jr. is Feed the Birds, for this show they have appropriately chosen the Animal Rescue League of Iowa as their selected organization. When you donate a couple of items on the ARL Fetch! List while attending a performance of Mary Poppins Jr., CAP will give you a free box of popcorn and a beverage as a thank you!

Everyone’s Nanny

Poppins table readA last word from Williams about the essential appeal of Mary Poppins, and to remember how everyone is part of a greater family - if we just choose to see it. “P.L. Travers reminds us in one of her Mary Poppins stories that: ‘We are all made of the same stuff, remember, we of the Jungle, you of the City. The same substance composes us – the tree overhead, the stone beneath us, the bird, the beast, the star – we are all one, moving to the same end. Remember that when you no longer remember me, my child.’”

For a practically perfect time, CAP-Altoona presents their production of Mary Poppins, Jr. beginning November 2, on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons for two weekends. Performances are at their building at 201 1st Avenue S. in Altoona, and tickets are available through their website at captheatre.org.

Thatcher Williams Class Act Productions Mary Poppins Jr.