Winds were in the east in Derry, New Hampshire.
On November 13-14, Kids Coop Theatre performed one of the best-known children’s stories of all time – Mary Poppins.
Most of us are familiar with Disney’s adaption of P.L. Travers’ all-time best children’s novel with Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins (and won an Oscar for her role). Nevertheless, the plot is different in the Musical adaption.
The Musical adaption – Music and lyrics were written by the Academy Award-winning Sherman Brothers (with additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe) and a script by Julian Fellowes. The musical is based on the similarly titled series of children’s books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film and is a fusion of various elements from the two. Some elements from the books were omitted from the film were restored, such as the walking statue and the ladders rising to the stars. Others were removed, such as the scene in which Uncle Albert gets caught on the ceiling, laughing.
About Kids Coop –
Kids Coop Theatre was established in 1997 by a small group of parents as a 501(c) 3 educational charity. Their goal then, as it is today, was to provide children with an opportunity to build self-esteem and learn valuable life skills such as leadership, teamwork, and discipline in a fun, non-competitive environment.
The Experience –
I performed at Derry’s Opera House when I was 7 or 8 years old. I did an Irish Step Dancing recital with the John Cunniffe Academy of Irish Step Dancing. With a newly renovated hall, the old architecture still captured the beautiful sounds of the orchestra and the distinctive voices of the cast.
This was my first time performing in a pit orchestra, and I had no idea what to expect. I studied and practiced the music carefully and took notes while listening to the Australian Cast recording. You may think that this music was easy-breezy, but playing through it was a challenge. Luckily, after a few weeks of practice, the music came into place.
I have seen a couple of productions from Kids Coop, including Happy Days and Sweeney Todd and there, was no question that these kids passionately love theater.
The production of Mary Poppins was directed by Donald Tongue with musical direction by Nicholas Pothier. The choreography was by Jacqueline Coffin (Coffin was reportedly ill during the production. Danielle Melendez stepped in at the last minute to take over the choreography). The cast was made up of 37 youth actors ages 8 to 18 and representing towns all over the region including Derry, Londonderry, Hampstead, Salem, Chester, Danville, Litchfield, Windham, and Atkinson.
Mr. Tongue gave a lot of notes to his cast before running the whole show, with Mr. Pothier warming up the vocals and Ms. Melendez giving last minute advice with the choreography.
It’s hard trying to know where you are in the music with a director who plays the piano most of the show, but it became easy once everything fell into place.
Plot and Synopsis
The show opened with Bert narrating the first act, standing on the roof tops. Jane and Michael set the first scene with Katie-Nana chasing the unruly children across London. Katie-Nana leaves the chaotic scene and Mr./Mrs. Banks are now in a pickle to find a new nanny. Jane and Michael help their parents by creating their advertisement. While on stage, Mrs. Brill (house maid), and Robertson (Butler) are characters that are unknown from the movie adaption. Robertson is always tired, while Mrs. Brill is fed up with taking care of Jane and Michael.
After George Banks tears up the advertisement and throws it in the chimney, Mary Poppins arrives on set, retrieving the torn up advertisement of a new nanny – Mr. Banks is stunned that his letter recovered. Mary Poppins meets Jane and Michael and walks them up to the nursery. Mary Poppins learns more about the children and how they are undisciplined, unmannered, and messy. Mary Poppins pulls out her tape measure and measures the children’s height (or in this case, who they are).
On the children’s first outing to the park, they meet Bert and, despite their reservations about his ragged clothes and dirty face, Mary teaches them that they must learn to look past appearances. To illustrate the point, Mary brings the park statues, including a mythological figure named Neleus, to life.
While Mary manages the children, other problems lie with their parents. Winifred Banks is aware that she is somehow disappointing both her children and her husband (“Being Mrs. Banks”). George Banks, on the other hand, can’t understand why she finds the role of wife and mother so difficult (“Cherry Tree Lane (Reprise)”). To please her husband, Winifred sends out invitations for a smart tea party. Mrs. Brill makes the preparations while telling an eager Robertson Ay to keep his hands off. The children inadvertently sabotage the kitchen preparations, but Mary Poppins sorts it out with a lesson. However, it is then revealed that none of the invitees are coming.
Mary takes the children to visit their father at the bank where he works (“Precision and Order”). There George is busy dealing with possible investment clients: first an ambitious man named Von Hassler who has an elaborate money-making scheme, and then a common man named Northbrook who has a simple factory project. George is furious when Mary turns up with the children, but an innocent question asked by Jane (What’s more important, a good man or a good idea?) makes him realize how much his values have changed since he was an idealistic young man. He then decides to accept Northbrook’s project and rejects Von Hustler’s, but unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse afterward.
Outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, Mary introduces the children to the Bird Woman. Jane is suspicious of her, but Michael responds to the Bird Woman and throws crumbs for the birds. On the trip home, the children meet the enigmatic Mrs. Corry who runs a magic sweet shop that also sellswords.
The children return home in high spirits, unaware that things have gone wrong for their father. Unknown to them, George’s decision to reject Von Hussler has cost the bank dearly, and he is suspended without pay. George explodes with rage at the children, and they are sent to the nursery. Reacting to her father’s outburst, Mary Poppins briefly points out that other members of the family are rarely there to take care of the parents, before Jane and Michael get into a fight over Jane’s doll, prompting a displeased Poppins to order them to bed and enchant them to sleep. The frightening consequence of her anger becomes apparent moments afterward, as Jane and Michael’s disgruntled toys come to life and join Mary in teaching them a lesson in how to take better care of their belongings and toys (formerly “Temper, Temper,” now “Playing the Game”).
Believing that Jane and Michael need personal growth, Mary decides to leave Cherry Tree Lane, to bring them to their senses. Her distraught charges find a note saying that perhaps they will see Mary Poppins again eventually.
Unfortunately, in a misguided attempt to please her husband, Mrs. Banks arranges for his childhood nanny, Miss Andrew, to take over from the suddenly departed Mary. At the very sight of her, a terrified Mr. Banks flees, exclaiming “the Holy Terror!” To everyone’s shock and dismay, Miss Andrew is a brutal and cruel tyrant, quick to administer her terrible elixir and discipline by threatening to split Jane and Michael up through boarding school.
Terrified of their new nanny, the children escape to the park and find their good friend Bert, who cheers them up and helps Michael fulfill his dream of flying a kite. This marks the return of Mary Poppins. Jane and Michael are thrilled to be reunited with her, and then quickly tell her of the changes that have gone on at Number 17.
Also hiding in the park is George, who is depressed over his supposed lack of achievements. Searching for him is Winifred, who at last understands her husband and the damage that was done to him by Miss Andrew.
When the children return to Number 17, Mary sets Caruso, Miss Andrew’s lark, free from his cage. This leads to the confrontation between the two nannies, ending with Miss Andrew having a taste of her own medicine as she is put in a giant birdcage and vanishes down below. Winifred and then George return at this point surprised but pleased that Miss Andrew has “left.”
On their next adventure, Bert introduces the children to his friends the chimney sweeps. The sweeps’ dance eventually enters the house, causing chaos. As the sweeps quickly exit, George receives a telegram from the bank requesting his presence there. George assumes that it is to seal his fate, and decides it’s time to sell the family heirloom. However, the vase is shattered accidentally by Mrs. Brill, who goes into a despairing shock since she had been cleaning it from the top of the shelf. When she is being led away for comfort, George goes to clean the broken pile himself, to find it reveal a collection of gingerbread stars from his childhood. This leads to a brief moment of reflection for George. After shaking hands with Bert, George leaves to meet the Chairman of the Bank.
At the children’s encouragement, Winifred decides to follow her heart and be at George’s side at the bank. Unseen to anyone else, Mary takes Jane and Michael to follow, where they watch the unfolding events.
At the bank, George is shocked to learn the truth about his choice: far from ruining the bank, he has made a fortune by both rejecting Von Hussler and approving Mr. Northbrook’s loan. They ask for the word that made them so successful, which George admits being Mary Poppins’ word, (“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (Reprise)”). Winifred, arriving to defend her husband, finds instead he is the hero of the hour. After she mentions Miss Andrew’s name to the Bank Manager, the old man too relates his experience under “the Holy Terror.” George apologizes for underestimating her, and together they return to the house.
Mary realizes that with the family reunited and happy, her task is done. With regret, she says goodbye to Bert with a kiss and sets off. Jane and Michael accept that Mary is leaving them and they tell Mary Poppins that they’ll never forget her. The two children watch as their parents waltz happily together ( and usually Mary flies high above the audience, disappearing in a flash, but there was no effect for this).
It was very exhausting running through all those rehearsals and three sold out shows. My favorite character was Mrs. Corry. The actress (who was ten years old) made me laugh at every single rehearsal and show. She was a ham and a very talented individual who can play any part. Mary Poppins and Bert were also incredible with their stage presence and nailed every line and lyric during the show. During “Jolly Holiday,” kids were dressed up as penguins and cows to creating the drawing scene. And yes, it was adorable, and I’m sure the audience agreed with their awes. I also love Ms. Andrews, who captivated the audience with her flexible vocal range and malevolent acting, which made her the scariest nanny out there.
There were some slip up’s, but hey, it’s a children’s theater company, and it’s supposed to be fun!
I had a great time playing my flute with my friends, some I haven’t seen in ten years, and new peers who are still in high school. After playing in this production, this made me love playing in pit orchestras, and I am hopeful I will be able to play in more in the future. There were some chatter boxes in front of me and was hard to concentrate, but managed through the show without any mistakes.
Kids Coop will be preparing for their next two productions, Alice in Wonderland, Jr. and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The Adams Family will be their summer production next year.
All I can say is that this production was practically perfect in every way.