PACT delivering a Spoon Full of Sugar

By Joseph Pratt - [email protected]

The cast of Mary Poppins rehearsing

The cast of Mary Poppins rehearsing

Portsmouth Area Arts Council and Children’s Theatre (PACT) is readying to wow audiences with more than a Spoon Full of Sugar this Jolly Holiday season that will have guests feeling Chim Chim Cher-ee.

Their upcoming musical, “Mary Poppins,” is based on the classic of the same name that has charmed audiences for decades.

According to Musical Theatre International, “The jack-of-all trades, Bert, introduces us to England in 1910 and the troubled Banks family. Young Jane and Michael have sent many a nanny packing before Mary Poppins arrives on their doorstep. Using a combination of magic and common sense, she must teach the family members how to value each other again. Mary Poppins takes the children on many magical and memorable adventures, but Jane and Michael aren’t the only ones upon whom she has a profound effect. Even grown-ups can learn a lesson or two from the nanny who advises that ‘Anything can happen if you let it.’”

The organization also commented on the stage adaptation, saying, “Mary Poppins is an enchanting mixture of irresistible story, unforgettable songs, breathtaking dance numbers and astonishing stagecraft. This show is a perfect opportunity to showcase a strong, iconic female performer, as well as unique special effects and illusions.”

The theatre troupe has been hard at work for months now, with Artistic Director Alison Thompson at the helm and Executive Director Bailey Hartlage keeping up on all operational needs. The two are PACT alumnae and have spent years with the organization.

“When we decide on any Children’s Theatre show, there are many factors we take into consideration. Does it serve our mission, does it benefit our students, will the public be interested, etc. We thought the answer to all of those questions was yes with a show like Mary Poppins,” Hartlage explained. “Even though it has a big reputation with the Disney name, I knew we would be able to put our own PACT spin on it and make it our own. There is something for everyone to love about Mary Poppins, and I think our production will be one the people of the Portsmouth area will remember.”

Hartlage and Thompson have over a decade of working together, both on and off stage. Thompson has been the artistic director for two seasons now and Hartlage is thrilled with her abilities.

“After working with Ali last season, I had no doubts that she could guide these kids in another successful show, and she has proven herself yet again. Mary Poppins is a daunting show for any director with all of its iconic music and choreography, but Ali has taught it all to our 60+ cast members while keeping it a fun and interactive experience for everyone,” Hartlage explained. “Our students blow me away every time, and this time is no different. Their talent is undeniable, and you can tell they have worked so hard and are having so much fun onstage. We also have an amazing group of parent volunteers that we could not produce this show without. They’ve helped with everything from supervising students at rehearsals to building phenomenal sets and prop pieces. It’s a real team effort to make everything happen, and I am so excited for everyone to see it.”

PACT shows are usually split between younger participants, older participants and a full-company show. This season follows that formula with “Mary Poppins” being the full-company show.

“I love these full-company shows with our older and younger kids both participating, because the younger kids learn so much from the older kids and their experience, and the older kids all learn something from the imagination of the younger kids,” Thompson explained.

Poppins has many large dance numbers and even more stage magic that goes into making such a large show possible. Thompson commented on the talent in the show, saying it easily pulls of such a tremendous feat.

“This cast is absolutely tremendous,” Thompson said. “These kids are honest within the show, so, when you sit down to watch the show, I mean, we could put kids in jeans and t-shirts on a bare stage and everyone would still know who is who. It is obvious and they’re just very honest in their portrayals.”

Thompson said that the community at large should support the mission of PACT, not only for the kids, for the entertainment value.

“People should come see this show, because we have 15 area schools covered in 3 counties,” Thompson said. “This is a place where students who have a love for theatre can come and do something so much larger than themselves. It is incredible to see their teamwork and it isn’t like you’re watching students; you’re watching performers.”

Mary Poppins will run November 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. and November 20 at 2:30 p.m. at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts. Admission is $10 for students and $15 for adults.

The cast of Mary Poppins rehearsing cast of Mary Poppins rehearsing

By Joseph Pratt

[email protected]

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved