High school drama department performs Mary Poppins Jr.

Daniel Bereznicki/McDonald County Press Visitors enjoyed a wonderful cast of characters in this year’s production of Mary Poppins Jr. From the actors to the stagehands, everyone exerted themselves to put on a good show.

ANDERSON -- The MCHS drama department performed an abridged version of the 1964 Disney classic film, Mary Poppins, which is based on the book written by P. L. Travers with the same name. On Friday, March 10, it was the first big musical production for the McDonald County Little Theater, which is on the McDonald County High School campus.

At the helm of this production is student director David Burleson. This responsibility commends a lot of preparation and leadership.

"My responsibilities are making sure all the choreography is done correctly, making sure every part is cast and everyone is involved," said Burleson.

Burleson selected the entire cast for the production and his skills as a director clearly show his instinctive ability to choose the right actor for the right role. His hard work paid off as he put on a great show.

Sam Brewer plays the part of Bert, a close friend of Mary Poppins, who tags along on the Banks children's adventure. Brewer perfectly captures the whimsy and good nature of the character Bert. This is a deceptively simple role as it commends the actor to walk on a tightrope between the platonic relationship of Bert and Mary Poppins while hinting at the characters' backstory. Brewer enjoyed playing the "goofiness" of the character as it allowed him to explore the playful nuances and extrovert nature of the character while adding a measure of creative control.

"I really get to do whatever I want on stage as long as it goes with what I'm saying," Brewer explained.

Many of his impromptu actions worked as his character guided the audience through the story.

Jacob Winkler, as George Banks, was nothing short of what the audience would demand in a masterful actor. The delivery of his dialogue and inflection in his voice reveals his proficiency as an actor, as he portrayed a man with an austere persona yet a kind heart. The audience cannot help but be touched by the heartwarming experience as the real George Banks resurfaces what was buried inside him years ago. No doubt, Winkler has the audience rooting for Mr. Banks.

Winkler also displays his comedic ability as he flees from Miss Andrew, who is Mr. Banks' overbearing and scary childhood nanny. Some would consider her as the "anti-Mary Poppins." He rushes off stage and busts through the door offstage when he hears the name of Mrs. Andrews.

Alongside George Banks is his wife, Winifred Banks, played by Brenna Jensen. Jensen's act clearly showed her understanding of the character as she plays a mother and wife who is exerting herself to prevent her family from becoming undone. She balances her role as a sweet mother and comforting wife perfectly.

The magic from the chemistry between Winkler and Jensen makes the characters they portray very believable. The subtext behind their actions, adds depth to their characters. These performances from the actors made a perfect case for the phrase "actions speak louder than words."

Josiah Wedell and Melanie Alvarez play the characters Michael and Jane Banks, respectively. Their performances nailed the essence of the characters without coming across as a nuisance for the story's lead character. One could forget these actors are all contemporaries.

Kaitlyn Epling shines as Mary Poppins. She effortlessly captures the elegance and sarcasm of the character while maintaining her signature British accent. To prepare for this role, Epling studied extensively.

"I just watched the movie over and over again. Trying to get how she is, how she is with the kids and how she is with everyone else on stage. I was just trying to get her personality," said Epling.

No one can deny the highlight of her performance was her voice.

"I've been in choir my whole life and I've been getting lessons from musical theater as well. That's taught me a lot." Her vocal training certainly paid off as it stood out among the cast.

The title character, Mary Poppins, is a challenging role that has a weight of responsibility. A terrible performance can alienate the audience and ruin the production. But Epling portrayed the character in a way that was familiar to audiences, and yet, she took it in a direction that made it her own.

Her performance, like Mary Poppins, was "practically perfect in every way."

Wyatt Hester, the drama theater instructor for MCHS wanted to give a shout-out to Lisa Wallis, who was operating the sound booth.

"I would not want to leave her out of anything because we cannot do our shows without Miss Lisa. She has coordinated so much of the information, so much of the music that we use for this show. She does it for every one of our students, she's so incredible."

The actors are just a few pieces of the puzzle that is Mary Poppins Jr. The stagehands and ushers behind the scenes worked very hard to run the play smoothly.

McDonald County residents can look forward to the school's next production.

  photo  Daniel Bereznicki/MCDONALD COUNTY PRESS The whole cast sings "Let's go fly a Kite." It is the climactic song that ends the play.
  photo  Daniel Bereznicki/McDonald County Press The March 10 Mary Poppins Jr. show was a success and cast members enjoyed themselves as much as the audience. The play ended with a standing ovation.
  photo  Daniel Bereznicki/McDonald County Press Kaitlyn Epling (left) took her role as Mary Poppins and made it her own with a stellar performance. Here, she took a funny picture with her mother (right). After, she expressed her pride in her daughter's accomplishments.
  photo  Daniel Bereznicki/McDonald County Press Sam Brewer (left) poses for the camera with his mother, Angie Brewer (right). Brewer played the character Bert in this production of Mary Poppins Jr. He captured the nuances and playful nature of the character.