Magic umbrella and carpet bag in hand, Mary Poppins is floating down to Beatrice.
Mary Poppins is about a nanny that uses a combination of magic and common sense to teach young Jane and Michael Banks how to value each other again.
Community Players will perform the popular Disney musical Feb. 15-17 and 22-24.
“We thought about Mary Poppins for a while, but I’d always kind of been leery of it just because of some of the technical challenges of it," said Jamie Ulmer, Community Players managing artistic director. "Namely, Mary Poppins can’t fly in our building."
Ulmer said they ultimately chose the show after having issues securing rights for a different show.
“We needed something that appealed to a similar demographic, and it turned out to be the absolute right choice, because coincidentally with the movie sequel coming out, Disney did a lot of advance work for us," Ulmer explained. "In December, they plastered Mary Poppins’ name everywhere, so there was a lot of built-in awareness in the community.”
Ulmer said that awareness was reflected in the number of people who came to audition.
“It’s one of the biggest audition turnout we’ve had in a number of years,” Ulmer said.
Ulmer said the casting for the "practically perfect in every way" nanny was challenging due to the different styles of the songs, as well as the precedent made by Julie Andrews and Emily Blunt.
“Jean Spilker, who is playing Mary Poppins, does a terrific job with the vocal challenges of the show, but also the subtlety of the acting,” Ulmer said. “Because Mary Poppins is kind of a devious thing. Playing that in kind of a fun, playful way with a sense that she has a secret."
Spilker added there are some differences in the character from the books to the films.
“In the books, Mary Poppins is a little bit more edgy than she is in the movie. She’s really snippy sometimes, or a little bit snarky,” Spilker said.
Spilker, who has been acting with Community Players for over 30 years, said she read the P.L. Travers books to learn more about Mary Poppins’ character.
“I loved the movie as a kid, and we watched a lot of Disney Sing-Along videos as a young mom when my daughter was little, so those songs stayed fresh in my mind,” Spilker said. “But I didn’t rewatch it, and I didn’t watch the new movie.”
Ulmer said changes were made to adapt the show to the stage, as well as to appease P.L. Travers and her estate, who notoriously did not like the movie adaptation.
“That’s why there wasn’t a movie sequel for so long, because she and her estate would not let Disney touch it,” Ulmer said. “So when they adapted it for the stage, they really worked with her estate, and they went back to a lot of the books that the Mary Poppins character was based on, and incorporated a lot of the other elements. They incorporated some of the other characters that didn’t make the cut in the movie.
“They also kind of expanded the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Banks, so now their relationship really goes somewhere. In fact, the biggest emotional through story of the show is for George and Winifred. In the movie, they’re the goofy parents, but here they’re real people examining their marriage. But then also, you go back to do a whole big musical, and you need a few more songs then what was in that film.”
Mary Poppins’ counterpart, the jack-of-all-trades chimney sweep Bert, is being played by Matt Osmotherly.
Osmotherly is a jack-of-all-trades himself, as he is also one of the two choreographers with Marissa Saure.
“This show has some of the most impressive dance numbers Community Players has put on stage maybe ever, but certainly in the last several years,” Ulmer said. “Everything from big tap sequences to the ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ number, which is a showstopper in and of itself. Seeing some of these production numbers is worth the price of admission alone, because the cast just brings so much energy, so much precision to the choreography. That’s really a credit to the cast, and to Matt and Marissa for all the great work they’ve done choreographing the show, then turning around and being in the show as well.”
Ticket prices are $18 for adults and $12 for students, and can be reserved at the box office, located at 412 Ella St., online at www.beatricecommunityplayers.com or by calling 402-228-1801.
“We really encourage people to make their reservations ASAP, because unlike Mary Poppins’ magic carpet bag, the seating in the theater is not limitless,” Ulmer said.
“All the stuff that you love and expect about Mary Poppins from the original movie are there,” Ulmer said. “It’s a really fun, familiar family production that we know audiences are going to absolutely love and talk about for a long time.”