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In the most delightful way – Mary Poppins comes to Mount Angel

By Melissa Wagoner

There is magic in the air at Chesterton Academy of the Willamette Valley – a private Catholic school located on South Main Street in Mount Angel – as the students prepare to present the school’s first musical performance, Mary Poppins.

“I think most people who love the original Mary Poppins movie or books will find a lot of beloved moments that they recognize in this play,” theater teacher and director Gabrielle Merritt said.

Tasked with learning songs, dances and even acrobatics, the 23 cast members – including 19 upper-class students and four elementary/middle school students – have been challenged in new ways.

“Since Chesterton Academy had never done a musical before, I was so excited for all the fun that comes with putting on a big show,” Merritt said. She is in her third year of teaching at the academy. “And Mary Poppins naturally lends itself to this big feel: the colorful set and costumes, the magic, the special effects, the action-packed cast. It has so much going for it; it is an easy show to love!”

Catherine Scheider, cast in the leading role, agrees.

“I hope everyone in the audience gets sucked in,” she said. “I’ve known [Mary Poppins] for many years and loved her very much. She’s so lovely and so mysteriously in charge. You love her and you can’t hold on to her.”

But creating the show’s magic hasn’t been easy.

“The question I am asked most is whether Mary Poppins will fly in our production,” Merritt said. “To hire a professional company to install flight rigging in our theater would cost thousands of dollars. But… we discovered a trick used in ancient Greek theater to give our Mary Poppins lift. Being a small school hasn’t stopped us from thinking big!”

The play has been an education.

“I have done plays before,” Taylor Lange, who plays Bert, said. “But this is my first time in a musical and it’s been different. With all the other plays it’s more line based. This is getting all the musical cues correct.” It’s also been costume designing, set building and special effects production. For Merritt, with 15 years of experience as a school theater director, that’s what makes a theater class an important part of the school’s curriculum.

“There are a lot of things I think the students learn: how to work together as a team, how to stretch themselves creatively,” she said. “But I think what I’d most like to hear at the end is that they really had a lot of fun.” 

Mary Poppins, the Musical

Presented by Chesterton Academy of the Willamette Valley
900 South Main St., Mt. Angel
Feb. 1-3, 7 p.m., Feb. 4, 2 p.m.
Tickets: $15     503-845-2727

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