*This story first appeared in The Budget’s July 4, 2018, Local Edition.
By Ellie Zumbach
The Actor’s Playground of Berlin is once again flying high this summer with its third summer production— Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins. Show dates for Mary Poppins are July 12-15 at Berlin Christian Fellowship.
Founder of The Actor’s Playground and director of Mary Poppins Chloe Torrence finds this year to be one of the most exciting shows yet. “Every year, our goal is to choose a show that features women, men, and young girls and boys,” Torrence explained. “Mary Poppins fit that.”
The onstage musical of Mary Poppins follows the movie while still introducing some different characters and a couple new songs. The story starts in England in 1910, when Bert the Chimney Sweep introduces the audience to a very troubled family by the name of Banks. Sister and brother Michael and Jane have scared off every nanny their father has hired until Mary Poppins arrives at their doorstep.
“This cast is just a wonderful mix of people who have been here for a couple of years and new people that are just getting the taste of it. They balance and learn from each other,” Torrence said. “I always get excited about the audience watching how young the kids are in this show and how capable they are of performing. They are just as capable of doing the exact same choreography as the 20-year-olds are doing at age four. They are working hard and giving everyone a show.”
The “practically perfect” Mary Poppins is portrayed by Elizabeth Festi, and the loveable, charming narrator, Bert, is played by Luke Hochstetler.
Festi, 20, a 2016 graduate of Garaway, attends Capital University in Columbus. When it comes to taking on the iconic role of Mary Poppins, she has been taking many different approaches to tackle the role. “I spend a lot of time looking at the movie version and other theatre companies to see how they have changed Mary,” she stated. “One thing I have been keeping in mind is the original book because that Mary is very different from the Disney Mary.”
Festi is excited for people to see “Playing the Game,” a song that isn’t in the movie. With the choreography and the blocking, she says, “It is really good. The kids are awesome in it. It’s one of those sides of Mary that we don’t normally see, but she is teaching these kids a lesson. It is honestly one of the creepiest scenes I have ever been a part of.”
Luke Hochstetler, 21, a 2015 graduate of Hiland, is entering his senior year at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Stepping into the tap shoes of Bert, for Hochstetler, is a dream come true. “Dick Van Dyke was so iconic in the role, so to take it on is an honor, but I am also excited to bring my own spin to it,” he said. “I have modeled a lot of characters I have done in the past on Dick Van Dyke, so it’s truly an honor.”
Other cast members include Austin Yoder and Noraa Hazlett as Mr. and Mrs. Banks. Jane Banks will be played by Madison Keim and Lyla Mullet, and Michael Banks will be played by Max Jones and Zoe Rubio. Miss Andrews is Cozette Torrence. Mrs. Brill is Hannah Morehart, and Robertson Ay is Mason Yoder. Mrs. Corry will be played by London Yoder. Neleus is Sasha Yoder, and The Bird Woman will be taken on by Elyse Miller. Katie Nanna is Olivia Lowe, Valentine is Cade Hamsher, Bank Chairman/Von Hussler is Jaxon Yoder, Admiral Boom is Cameron Miller, and Constable is Danny Sparling. Northbrooke will be portrayed by Andrew West. Annie, Fannie, and Jannie will be played by Sarah, Gracie, and Chloe Kurtz. Miss Lark is Tenieka Cheyenne, and Park Keeper is Rylin Miller. Queen Victoria is Brenna Moan, and Miss Smythe is Ashley Stolzfus.
Ensemble members are: Lainey Miller, Hayley Fantin, Asher Rubio, Levi Rubio, Kate Bodiker, Katherine Hochstetler, Chloe Beachy, Kyla Yoder, Riley Shaw, Mimi Shaw, Sophie Mullet, Sam Kaufman, Lexi Sisson, Alex Weaver, Claire Mullet, Allysyn Mullet, Hana Yoder, Itzelle Guzman, Eva Troyer, Landri Miller, Landon Troyer, Calista Stutzman, Sophie Stutzman, Amelia Stutzman, Caroline Malicky, George Malicky, Ruthie Morehart, Heather Smith, Courtney Billeter and Moriah Yoder.
People behind the scenes include Assistant Director Jaynie Hazlett, Stage Manager Diane Brunke, Choreographer Jaylan Miller, Assistant Choreographer Naomi Bunn, Scene Designer Sarah Kitzmiller, and Orchestra Director Trey Hawkins.
For tickets or more information, visit taplayground.com or call 330-231-7883.