The Valdosta Daily Times
Sawyer Theatre has hosted many locales through the years.
The stage has been New York City, Argentina, ancient Greece, Britain, fantasy worlds, and places near, far and in between. Sawyer has been everywhere without a shift in its longitude or latitude.
Within Sawyer, the stage has stormed to help a dancer with his singing in the rain, become the mighty Mississippi for Huck Finn and now it will help a woman fly.
For Peach State Summer Theatre, “Mary Poppins” dominates Sawyer with chimney rooftops, British nurseries, moving statues, giant toys, colorfully costumed dancers and singers, multiple sets, and a flying rig that will raise Megan Wheeler as the title character high above Sawyer’s floorboards and into the stars.
Show director Dr. Randy Wheeler says “Mary Poppins” pushes Sawyer to the limits but should excite audiences with a story that is both familiar and new.
The live “Mary Poppins” owes much to the 50-year-old Disney movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Audiences should expect the familiar songs “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” etc.
But it also owes as much to the original “Mary Poppins” stories of author P.L. Travers. In the books, as with the live shows, Mary Poppins influences the life of the father as much as she is an effective nanny to the children. The stage show explores a deeper aspect of the story, but it should still be appropriate for most children.
PSST! has issued an advisory that the show may not be appropriate for children under 8, but Dr. Wheeler explains this caution is more about the show’s expected run time of two hours and 45 minutes rather than its content.
Originally, when Disney created a live show, it contained a number called “Temper, Temper,” which proved too frightening to many children. That song had the children’s toys coming to life and tossing the children out of their house. But producers changed the number, toned it down, replaced the song. The scene still has the toys coming to life with the message that the children should care for their toys but with a less-intense attitude. PSST! uses the less-intense version.
Opening tonight, “Mary Poppins” kicks off PSST!’s 25th anniversary. In the coming weeks, “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” opens June 20 and “42nd Street” opens June 27.
On the way to attend these shows in Sawyer Theatre, audiences will find a hallway of the Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building lined with posters celebrating the past shows of PSST! and its summer musical predecessor on Jekyll Island. Julius and Julia Ariail created these posters which celebrate VSU Theatre & Dance’s 77 summer musicals as PSST! and on Jekyll.
People can look at these posters and the memories they spark and decide for themselves how “Mary Poppins” fills Sawyer Theatre.
THE CAST: Olin Davidson, Michael Hadary, Desirée Dillon, Maggie Tarpley, John Laurent Dean, Hudson Hsu, Heather McCall, Ryan Stillings, Tess Muccigrosso, Robert McFletcher, Lindsay Simon, Blake Fountain, Megan Wheeler, Robert McFletcher, Michael McClain, Renita James, Sarah Wildes Arnett, Michael Byrne, Caroline Hatchett, Tanisha Moore, Kelsey Russo, Christine McNeal, David E. Foster, Jared Brodie, Wendell Hester, Matthew Hogan, Jazz Lewis, Cedric J. Paige, Elle Scruggs, Hannah Trowell, Olivia Wilde.
DIRECTION, PRODUCTION: Dr. Randy Wheeler, director; Barbara Hartwig, choreographer; Matthew C. Mainella, musical director; Michael Hadary, vocal director; Abby Vincent, stage manager; Ruth A. Brandvik, set design; Genny Wynn, lighting design; Esther Iverson, costume design; Rex Seminole, technical director.
Peach State Summer Theatre opens “Mary Poppins.”
Where: Sawyer Theatre, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood.
When: The show opens 7:30 p.m. today, Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday; next week, 7:30 p.m., June 14; 3 p.m., June 15; then in rotating repertory through July 26.
Reservations, more information: Call (229) 259-7770; or visit www.valdosta.edu/psst