“Mary Poppins” coming to R-P auditorium for Rushford Days

TCR/KRISTIN BURDEY Mary Poppins (Grace Mohler) with Jane (Mollie Koch), right, and Michael (Carter Kopperud-Erickson), left.
By : 
Kristin Burdey
Tri-County Record

The Rushford Area Society of the Arts (RASA) is just two weeks away from producing Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical,” the first summer show to be held in the new RPHS Auditorium.

With a cast of 43 children and adults, “Mary Poppins” will be the biggest stage production RASA has done in years. Many of the songs will be familiar to the attendees, such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Spoonful of Sugar.” 

However, audiences shouldn’t expect the stage version to be quite the same as the 1964 Disney film, which featured Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. “I was surprised how different from the movie it was,” says director Anna Landkammer. She says there are more unexpected and fun characters than the movie version, and scenes that are altogether different, such as when the nursery toys come to life. “Audiences can look forward to the familiar magic of Mary Poppins, yet still enjoy the different take of the story that we’ll be telling.” 

Landkammer, a physical therapist at Mayo Clinic whose resume includes both stage and film, is returning for her second production in Rushford. When RASA staged “Annie” in 2017, the goal was to put on a show with a household name to bring the years at the old R-P building to a spectacular finish. “Annie” sold out all five performances and confirmed what the RASA board had suspected: that the community enjoys family-friendly entertainment. That helped lead to the selection of “Mary Poppins” – another well-known musical that would incorporate local actors of all ages – as the RASA premier in the new building. 

With a new school comes a new stage, and this stage is considerably larger than the old one. As a result, this set is the biggest RASA has ever had for a production, according to actor and set designer Burt Svendsen. Svendsen designed the set, which includes a nursery and a rooftop. Set construction was completed by Jim and Jack O’Donnell, and the Kyle Colbenson family. 

Set-building is just one of the facets of backstage life during a summer production. Nancy Svendsen is the seamstress and costumer, providing costumes for all cast members, and costume changes for many. Musical Director Sharon Boyum helped singers to learn their music on their own before taking it to the stage. Casting and scheduling rehearsals for a large cast can be a trying ordeal as well. It takes many hands all working together to bring a musical of this size to fruition, and the RP Valley is fortunate to have such a group.

The “Mary Poppins” cast will feature many familiar faces, as well as newcomers to the RASA stage. Grace Mohler of Rochester is delighted to be playing the role of Mary Poppins. “It is a huge honor,” Mohler enthuses, citing the excitement of being part of a group of creative people putting their minds together. Carter Kopperud-Erickson of Rushford will be making his RASA debut as Michael. Although he is no stranger to performing, Kopperud-Erickson said, “On a scale of one to ten, I’d give this a ten.” Though nervous to get off-book this week, he sat down with his mom and memorized all his lines over the weekend.

Performances are scheduled for the week of Rushford Days, with 7 p.m. shows on Wednesday, July 18 through Friday, July 20, and 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children age 12 and under, and are available at Rushford Foods, Burdey’s Café, and online at brownpapertickets.com. Although the capacity of the new auditorium is nearly double that of the old, RASA is contracted to sell only 225 tickets per performance, so don’t wait to get yours.

One of the biggest challenges Landkammer has faced while directing Mary Poppins is complying with the stringent rules and regulations that accompany a Disney production. “I like thinking out of the box and doing things that may seem a little unexpected,” she said. “I think we’ve been able to successfully bring the show to life, yet still make it our own.” 

Landkammer choreographed all of the many musical numbers in the show, some of which are very complex. “There are some real production numbers in this show,” Svendsen reveals. “The audience will be wowed!”