It’s bound to be a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious theatrical experience when “Mary Poppins Jr.” is presented by The Live Oak Theatre’s Acorn Theatre in collaboration with Wilson Technology on November 3, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19. All performances will be presented at the Carol and Frank Morsani Center for the Arts, 21030 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville. The Friday and Saturday evening shows are at 7:30 p.m.; the Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m. Doors open approximately 30 minutes before showtime.
This production arises from some rich and historical source material, as PL Travers wrote the original novel “Mary Poppins” in 1934, a mystical story about children who wish for the perfect nanny—only to see one descend from the clouds and transform their lives through the power of magic. The book became a film in 1964, marking the screen debut of the legendary Julie Andrews, who won an Oscar for the role. A Broadway musical followed, which ran for more than 2,500 performances and was nominated for many Olivier and Tony Awards. And now, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins Jr.” is set to take the stage at Acorn Theatre, Live Oak’s youth theater program for students ages 8–18. Lexi Allocco will be in charge of directing this production.
The Acorn Theatre performance class meets to rehearse on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The class runs in eight-week periods, with six performances at the end of each term. The Acorn Theatre works together to produce and perform three shows each year, as well as participate in the annual Brooksville Tree Lighting.
The Acorn Theatre production team consists of rotating directors and instructors who are assisted by a team of apprentices in the areas of stage manager, assistant director, costumes, choreography, lighting, sound, music and set design. Parent volunteers are always welcome in these areas as well.
Acorn Theatre apprentices are chosen from regular performers at Live Oak who have “grown up” on the stage. They assume leadership roles in the production and mentor the students of the youth theater.
“After the highly successful production of ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ we realized that we had the talent for ‘Mary Poppins,’” said Live Oak spokesman Vince Vanni. “This decision was made by Lexi and Randi (Olsen, artistic director of Live Oak Theatre), in collaboration with the senior students in our Youth Theatre program.”
Vanni says that the cast and crew more than met the challenges of presenting a classic of children’s theater. “The challenge is always adapting a traditional show to our intimate, thrust stage, where the audience is up close and personal,” he said. “There was also the additional challenge of the fact that our youth theater group almost doubled this year. I am personally wondering if anything was a challenge to the cast of ‘Mary Poppins Jr.’ after watching Lexi work with them. I have seen rehearsals and watched these kids (ages 7 through 18) sing in multiple harmonies while dancing at the same time.”
And, Vanni says, the kids had a blast in the process. “The kids all seem to be having a blast while learning,” he said. “The challenge for me, as a drama coach, is getting kids to behave as adults.”
According to Vanni, the play’s cast prepared well for this production. “The primary preparation is the various classes at the conservatory, where they learn to sing, act and dance. This is important. People keep asking how we find so much local talent,” he said. “We develop it. Most of the cast was already familiar with the story, no need to prepare by watching the film. Also, the kids had to learn various British accents, etc.”
“Mary Poppins Jr.” offers young audiences a good number of positive messages. “Kindness goes a long way in developing character,” Vanni said.
When asked what he hoped audiences would take away from The Acorn Theatre’s production of “Mary Poppins, Jr.,” Vanni’s answer was quick and sure. “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down… in the most delightful way.”
Advanced adult seats for “Mary Poppins, Jr.” are $20; children 13 and under are $10 (with the purchase of an adult reservation). Advanced prices are available up to approximately 24 hours before each performance. Twenty-four hours prior to showtime, ticket prices increase by $5 for adults and children.
Advanced seats are selling quickly, Vanni reports. To reserve seating, visit https://liveoaktheatre.square.site/, or email [email protected] or call 352-593-0027.
For more information about the Live Oak Theatre Company, including sponsorship and audition opportunities, call 352-593-0027, email [email protected], or go to www.LiveOakTheatre.org.