Students bring ‘Mary Poppins’ to stage

Putting on a blockbuster musical is a leap of faith for Duncan Christian School.

Putting on a blockbuster musical is a leap of faith for Duncan Christian School.

But they’ve chosen well. Their production of crowd-pleaser Mary Poppins will hit the big stage at the Cowichan Theatre for two shows on Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7.

“It’s the first time ever this show will be produced in the Cowichan Valley,” said director/teacher Greg Hollett. “It’s not a junior or school version, either. It’s the real Broadway show.

“The rights to Mary Poppins were only released in 2015 and I immediately applied and was surprised and pleased to be granted the rights to perform the show. We just happened to be the first ones to get it.”

But it is a courageous undertaking because these big shows are not cheap to buy.

“It is a big thing on a lot of levels: the production is huge, the sets are very complex and fabulous.”

Mary Poppins requires special effects, and this production of the show will, too.

“I won’t let any secrets out, but you’d better believe that we will have them,” Hollett promised. “Magic will happen onstage. We’ve worked very hard to maintain the integrity of the production at every level, including the special effects.”

Duncan Christian School has quietly worked its way up, bringing several big-name musicals to the stage.

“We did Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Prince and the Pauper, and Cinderella. This is the biggest yet but certainly we’ve advanced over the last 10 years into a place where we are ready to do justice to this. We really wanted to honour it; Mary Poppins is a timeless classic that everybody knows and loves.”

Before even trying for the rights to the show, Hollett had a particular Mary Poppins in mind.

“Having Brenna Bazinet in mind from the beginning to play the role of Mary Poppins made it possible for us to say we could do this. But we also had a very strong male lead, Jared Popma, for Bert. They are both very strong, very good. Brenna’s been in every production since Grade 8.”

These included Cinderella and then three home-grown shows, all written specifically for the school’s students.

“Brenna is the type of performer you can build a cast around. That’s why we chose Seven Brides for Seven Brothers all those years ago. We had a bunch of crazy guys. Now, we have a cast of 35 students and they’re all great.”

But there’s even more this year.

Duncan Christian School is ramping up the production values of the event by bringing in some of Judy Hogg’s Celtic Rhythms dancers.

“We’ve asked them to join us and a dozen of their highlight dancers will be joining us onstage for two numbers. They will light up the stage in ‘Jolly Holiday’ and they will kick their heels up in the number ‘Step in Time’. I’m so excited; they’ve been working with us.

One of their dancers, Angel Smith, is going to the provincial music festival, as is Bazinet, who is competing in voice.

“It’s great to have that kind of talent onstage,” he said.

Mary Poppins is a fun show, suitable for the whole family.

“I’ve always been careful in choosing productions that are family friendly,” Hollett said.

That of course added to his excitement as he sat, like a cat at a mouse hole, watching for his chance to capture the rights.

“It’s a mix between trepidation and elation. We’re two weeks away from production now and it’s going to be fantastic. We have such a talented cast and crew I know they are bringing everything to it and the results will be worthy of, hopefully, our largest audience ever. Ticket sales are already moving that way.”

Showtime is 7 p.m. both nights.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students aged 13-18, $10 for children aged six to 12 and $5 for children under five. At those rates, you can get the whole family together and go as a group.

Visit the Cowichan Ticket Centre or cowichanpac.ca or call 250-748-7529 to reserve and get ready for a great night of entertainment.