'Mary Poppins' lands on Annisquam stage

·5 min read

Aug. 9—Anything can happen when the Annisquam Village Players puts on its annual summer show.

In its first major production since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Village Players will present the magical and surprise-filled story of "Mary Poppins," which runs Tuesday, Aug. 9, to Sunday, Aug. 14. This will be the first group to use the renovated Annisquam Village Hall.

"One of the big songs in the show, 'Anything Can Happen,' is kind of our theme for the show," said Director Terry Sands. "I think the audience is going to love it."

The Annisquam Village Players planned to present the show in 2020, but the pandemic killed that plan, and the following year it was postponed again; and the troupe sought the rights to the show again this year.

"We have had so many challenges, ten times more than other production, and part of it is due to the pandemic," Sands said. "People grew up on these songs, and for the times we are in, it's a really upbeat show and a really happy show, which is a message that's nice to get out to the public. Our high-energy singing and dancing chorus includes chimneysweeps, kite fliers, park strollers, and bankers. Don't be surprised to see both people and objects floating around the stage."

The production includes the signature special effects for which the the Annisquam Village Players is known and for putting its spin on popular stories. In this case, the stage will be transformed into rooftops of 1910 Edwardian London, notes Sands, adding that in one scene, there will be a tea party that takes place in mid-air.

There was a little magic in the air for the casting of the lead role.

Serendipity

Emily Frick, a Gloucester High graduate and junior at New York University studying vocal performance and musical theater, decided to audition. This will be her ninth production with the Annisquam Village Players, having had her first role as an orphan in "Annie" when she was 8.

When the show for 2020 was first announced, she wasn't sure if she was old enough for the title role. But as her entire high school theatrical career was canceled due to COVID-19, so too was that production.

"But now I'm thinking I'm 20, and Julie Andrews was 20 when she played the role, so that's got to count for something, so I auditioned," said Frick. "When I heard it was different from the movie I was very interested. It's a different plot but it has songs that people know well. There's a lot more substance to it and Mary's character has more depth to her."

A lifelong fan of Andrews, Frick was eager to take the plunge into this role.

"I'm a person who has been immersed in musical theater since forever," she recalled. "My mom put on 'Sound of Music' for me when I was little and I can recite that musical word for word. Julie Andrews is one of my icons and Mary Poppins is an iconic Julie Andrews role. This character has thoughts and real feelings and purpose behind what's she doing."

In addition to the role of the beloved nanny, another lead role is Bert, the dancing chimney sweep, played by Craig Fox of Swampscott. Other characters include a statue that comes alive in the park, the mysterious laughing uncle and the bird woman, who may have the most romantic song of the show, said Sands.

What's different

The story of Mary Poppins first came to life in the 1934 book by Pamela L. Travers (1899-1996), which decades later became a Disney movie in 1964 for which Julie Andrews won an Academy Award as best actress. The film also starred Dick van Dyke. The show became an award-winning stage musical in 2004, and later Disney brought Mary Poppins back with its 2018 release of "Mary Poppins Returns" starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Sands was drawn to the music in the show, with titles such as "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Chim Chim Cheree," "Go Fly a Kite," "Step in Time," and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

"The play has songs that weren't in the movie and there are some songs from the movie that are not in the show, and I have combined elements of the two," noted Sands. "Our 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' scene is different than the Broadway show and different than the movie and I like this one best."

There is a cast and crew of about 50 people, ranging in age from 7 to older than 80.

"We have amazing voices in this show," said Sands. "It's an interesting mix this year with both seasoned AVP actors and some news faces."

Fox is among them. He started in community theater in 2016 though he has experience with musical performance as part of an a cappella group, Partial Credit, when he was in college at Rensselaer Polytechnic in New York. The pandemic forced a hiatus, but he is eager to hit the stage again.

"This play is so incredibly upbeat," said Sands. "There are a lot of surprises and 'anything can happen' and a lot of things happen that the audience doesn't expect."

Tickets are $40 for reserved seating in the first three rows or $20 general admission. All actors are vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. Masks will be required for audience members. For tickers and other details, visit https://annisquamvillageplayers.com.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.