The Magic Of Mary PoppinsErin Gaines’ voice has to be in “spit spot” shape to take on the vocally demanding lead in the upcoming Hawaii Children’s Theatre (HCT) musical production of Mary Poppins. That means plenty of ginger, turmeric, lemon — and “a spoonful of sugar.”
“This is definitely my biggest role and it’s the most challenging,” says Gaines, who has graced many Kauai stages over the years.
Most people are probably familiar with the magical, plucky character of Mary Poppins, and they will have an opportunity to be delighted and uplifted by her whimsical story for three weekends beginning Nov. 13 at Kauai Memorial Convention Hall.
“This show has characters in it who can inspire people. I want people to be inspired; to be better than they think they can be,” says Carol Culver, director and choreographer of the local production. “It helps people to find that place where their dreams can be fulfilled.”
The sentiment Anything Can Happen (one of the many encouraging songs in the show) is the driving force behind the entire play, serving as a meaningful lesson for keiki and adults alike. But moral lessons aside, the show will offer plenty of magical surprises to keep audiences at the edge of their seats.
“This production has all kinds of fun technical things to it,” says Debra Blachowiak, HCT board member.
“They keep getting bigger and bigger,” says Dolly Kanekuni, HCT board president.
The sets are elaborate and the cast has 45 members ages 8 to 73.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying it,” says Culver of working with all the talented performers.
The musical theatre aficionado has wanted to bring Mary Poppins to Kauai ever since she saw it on Broadway a few years ago.
“I knew this had to be done by HCT, and when they did it, I wanted to be involved,” she says.
The richness and depth of the characters’ personalities are among many reasons Culver is drawn to the story.
“My character starts off as a timid person, but as the show progresses, Mary Poppins changes everyone and makes them a happy family,” says Jessika Montoya, who plays Winifred Banks. “People in the audience will see that, and see that it’s relatable in their life. It affects them and makes them happy. I love affecting people. I love changing how people see things — showing a different perspective on things and having people be moved by a performance.”
Playing different characters for audiences and affecting change is something that 12-year-old Mia Thompson, who is double cast as Jane Banks, also loves to do.
“I like to act because you explore different roles and get to be in different people’s lives,” she says. “You get to act different feelings and different stories, and I find that kind of cool,” she says.
Tanner Hubbard, who is double cast in the role of Michael Banks, shares the same sentiment.
“Every time I get to act like someone else, it’s fun and awesome,” says the 10-year-old.
Being part of a production like Mary Poppins also is about the ability to connect to others who share this same acting passion.
“I get to hang out with all of these lovely people,” says Jeremiah Garcia, 10, who also plays Michael Banks.
That sense of connection is one of the reasons Kaile McKeown, who shares the role of Jane Banks, became involved in local theatre performances.
“You get to be on stage, and all the people here are fun and nice,” she says. “It’s a whole big family.”
McKeown, 11, recently attended HCT’s workshop and performance program “Summer Stars,” which inspired her to try out for the group’s annual musical.
“It was really fun,” she says. “There are a lot of kids there and it’s every day, so it’s something fun to do. It’s all active and you get to make a lot of friends.”
Making differences like this in children’s lives is why Bobbee Downs, who handles hair and makeup, and her assistant Ben Miller volunteer so much of their time with HCT. Though Downs modestly says the board of directors is responsible for really making the organization’s wheels turn.
“Without them, none of this would happen,” she says.
HCT was founded in 1996 and is driven by a voluntary board of directors who encourage youths to participate in theatre arts.
“I think theatre is so important to any community; it’s important to families, teenagers and children; it teaches so much and keeps the community together,” says Kanekuni.
Mary Poppins, a children’s book series turned Disney movie turned Broadway production, opens Nov. 13 and is onstage through Nov. 29. Visit hawaiichildrenstheatre.org to purchase tickets and for more information.