ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP – Flight lessons were the order of the day Feb. 25 and 26 at Edgewood High School, but the landing strip was none other than the auditorium stage.
The stage flight company “Flying By Foy” flew in from Las Vegas over the weekend to give flying lessons to several cast members of “Mary Poppins,” the Disney musical that is being presented by Edgewood’s drama department March 10-12 in the Edgewood High School auditorium.
Two of the musical’s main characters – Mary Poppins and her good friend Bert – will be taking to the air during the lavish production directed by Bill and Mary Ann Kline, celebrating ten years as directors of Edgewood High School musicals.
“Why Mary Poppins?” said Mary Ann, who began directing at Edgewood when her younger daughter, Emily, was an Edgewood student. With a Musical Theater degree from Kent State University, Emily is now living in and auditioning in New York City, waiting for her first big break..
“Everybody loves ‘Mary Poppins,’ don’t they?” Kline said. “It’s a wonderful show, and we have the perfect kids to play the leads, so we thought it would be a wonderful year to do it.”
Edgewood’s production of “Mary Poppins” features a cast of 35.
Andrea Zaccaro, who plays Mary Poppins, Tyler Pew, as Bert, and Emily Pew, as Miss Andrews, spent last Saturday night and Sunday afternoon taking up flying.
“Flying By Foy” spent the weekend in Ashtabula, setting up the “flight rigging” that allows Mary Poppins to gently glide down from the sky, holding her umbrella, and training the actors how to use it.
Families looking for a stage version of the popular Disney movie are forewarned that the play offers a few variations – some of them slightly dark --, including the introduction in Act II of Mr. Banks’ stern childhood nanny, Miss Andrews, along with a colorful song-and-dance number from the Candy Shop.
“A lot of people will be expecting the movie, but it’s different. I like how they changed the character of Winifred,” Kline said.
Just about everything else is the same, including the Banks family whom Mary Poppins seeks to make whole again.
Other “Mary Poppins” cast members include Dale Sheldon as Mr. Banks and Madison Gillette as his wife, Winifred; Nina Nichols and Lauren Massaro as Jane and Michael Banks; Brianna Womble as Mrs. Brill, the head housekeeper; Shayla Ramos as Mrs. Corey and Rider Simmons playing the House Boy.
Some of the leads are in a high school production for the first time.
“Some are brand new and others have done numerous shows, so we have a nice combination,” Kline said. “No one realizes that the new ones are new, and I don’t think anyone knows how much time and effort go into a production. It’s eye-opening for the new ones. But interestingly enough, once they’ve done it, they come back.”
Edgewood productions involve a solid percentage of the student body. In addition to the 35-member cast, 30 more are involved in the stage crew (10 people) and 20 more are in the pit band, directed by Connie Sommers.
In addition to co-directing, Bill Kline handles the set design. What his wife describes as a “small army of wonderful parents” sews a portion of the 200 costumes that are not borrowed from the Ashtabula Arts Center.
“What we don’t borrow, we make, so there are lots of busy hands behind the scenes,” Kline said.
In their tenth year at the helm of Edgewood productions, the Klines say that directing is a labor of love that has become easier over the years.
“Bill and I were talking about that, and we decided that once you’ve done it, there are ways to streamline. You figure out that this wasn’t necessary, or you know that down the line you are going to need something, so you go ahead and do it ahead of time,” Kline said. “I’ve learned to juggle that, so in that, it’s easier.”
Speaking of love, children will love the “Spoonful of Sugar” party that will take place 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 11, following the 2 p.m. “Mary Poppins” matinee.
It comes with a buffet of “goodies” and children’s activities, photo opportunities with the cast, and a sing-along.
The cost is $5, and reservations are requested.
Starting March 1, the “Mary Poppins” cast and crew has been having dinner together at Edgewood each night as part of the intense full-production nightly rehearsal during what is known in theater circles as “tech week.” It is an Edgewood drama tradition.
In keeping with another tradition, the “Mary Poppins” cast will be visiting Kingsville Elementary School on March 9 to present a small sample of songs from the show.
“No costumes or props, but we do wear ‘Mary Poppins’ T-shirts that Ringer Screen Print has made that were designed by the cast. We wear our shirts and do our thing!” Kline said.
That experience is extra-special for cast members who remember the high school musical cast coming to perform at their elementary schools when they were younger.
Kline, a physical therapist with University Hospitals, and her husband, who travels with Canadian National, have been working on ‘Mary Poppins’ since November.
The cast was announced in early December, and rehearsals began in January.
“We’ve had a good, solid eight weeks of rehearsals. Lots of long days,” Kline said.
Assisting with “Mary Poppins” are Nora Giangola, Music Director; Kim Godfrey, choreographer; and Debbie Paxson, Art Director, assisted by Chris Davis, a more recent Edgewood graduate, part-time instructor at the Conneaut Arts Center and college student.
“We love Chris. He’s been with us for several years, and we’re never letting him go,” Kline said.
Because Edgewood High School auditorium seats about 700, “Mary Poppins’ performances are not expected to sell out.
Show times are 7 p.m. March 10, 2 and 7 p.m. March 11, and 2 p.m. March 12.
Tickets are $5 students and $10 adults.
“We block off a few seats for equipment and sight lines, but there are plenty of seats available,” Kline said. “The box office opens an hour before the show, and people always start lining up.”
Edgewood High School is located at 2428 Blake Road in Ashtabula Township.