Mary Poppins flies onto local stage

Prince of Wales Collegiate puts off the play Mary Poppins at the Arts and Culture Centre while the movie’s sequel plays in theatres.


Melissa Wong

Terry Howlett had no idea when he began organizing a local production of Mary Poppins that its sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, would hit theatres a few months before his play hit the stage.

“We just wanted to pick a good family-based story because we haven’t gone there before so it was something different out of us, from us that we wanted to explore,” said Howlett, a music teacher at Prince of Wales Collegiate.

The school’s production of Mary Poppins debuts today and will run through Saturday at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre.

During the cast’s final rehearsal on Wednesday, Howlett conducted the band from below the stage in the orchestra pit.

Preparing for the production began in October. He worked with the Arts and Culture Centre to pick out costumes and props from storage. Anything they didn’t have, he either found or created himself.

Something new

Owen Bartlett plays Bert a jack-of-all-trades who is returning a lost dog. Rachael Currie as the titular Mary Poppins happens to run into him, with the children in her care. Laura Harpur play Jane Banks and Julie Tschaja play Michael Banks who are surprised that their nanny can talk to dogs.
Owen Bartlett plays Bert, a jack-of-all-trades who is returning a lost dog. Rachael Currie, playing Mary Poppins, happens to run into him, with the children in her care. Laura Harpur plays Jane Banks and Julie Tschaja plays Michael Banks. Both characters their nanny can communicate with dog. Melissa Wong/Kicker

Howlett said he has never been involved with the production of this play before.

According to Howlett, the students in the musical have been practising the play since mid-October. The leads, Owen Bartlett as Bert and Rachael Currie as Mary Poppins, have not seen the full original movie. The two say they’re acting based solely on the script to try to do something different from before.

“But I have seen the sequel which is weird,” said Bartlett. “. . . “For the most part, I have created my own version of Bert.”

Bartlett has always been interested in musical theatre, so when he saw the chance to play Bert, he jumped at the opportunity.

“I figured I would audition and be a part of another great PWC musical.”

Likewise, Currie is making the character she plays her own too.

“I actually haven’t seen the original; I have seen the sequel,” Currie said. “I definitely will eventually watch it, but I have been quite busy with this that I can’t watch the original movie.”

The cast of the musical eventually gathered in the drama room on Wednesday to talk and organize for opening night.

“Oh, so many interesting things happened with this musical,” Currie said. “The cast… we all know each other very well.”

A spoonful of history

P.L. Travers created Mary Poppins for her children’s book series, which was published over more than five decades, from 1934 to 1988. The eight books tell the tale of a magical nanny who takes care of the Banks’ children.

Walt Disney turned Mary Poppins into the 1964 movie musical starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The movie was a huge success that won five academy awards.

In 2004, Disney Theatrical Productions and Sir Cameron Mackintosh produced a staged musical version of Mary Poppins in London. The musical later went to Broadway in 2006.

The legacy of the original movie led to the creation of two more movies. In 2013, Saving Mr. Banks showed the world how the film came to be, and in 2018 the sequel was released. The sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, continued the story with new actors playing Mary and Bert, Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda.

“It is just one of those stories that have hung on for years,” Howlett said. “People relate to it just so well. It is based on family . . . their struggles [and] their issues with a mother and father trying to raise their children. I think that is pretty much a timeless story that every single family can relate to.”


    • Editor’s Note: The story was published on the day that Mary Poppins had its debut at the Arts and Culture Centre. The show ran Feb. 21-23.

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