Grade 10 student Sarah Luedke stars as the titular main character in the Dover Bay Secondary School production of Mary Poppins. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo’s Dover Bay Secondary School begins theatre season with ‘Mary Poppins’

Nearly 100 students involved in the cast, crew and orchestra

Dover Bay Secondary School is kicking off its 2017-18 theatre season with a production of Mary Poppins.

This is the first of at least seven different productions slated for the school year. There are 27 students in the cast and 25 on the production team not including those who helped with set construction and painting. Music will be provided by a 40 member student orchestra. All students involved in the production are in Grades 8 to 12.

Director Ward Narcutt selected the play at the end of last year and held auditions in June before starting rehearsals the first week of September. The show comes to the Dover Bay stage Dec. 11 to 16.

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“Basically we have three months and we’re doing a major musical. It’s really fast,” Narcutt said.

He said he wanted to stage a production of Mary Poppins since before he was aware that the story has been adapted to the stage in 2004.

“The show has a lot of really, really catchy tunes and it’s really fun to sing but the singing is actually pretty difficult sometimes,” he said.

“There’s four part harmonies, and we have a very particular music director who really wants the singing to work well,” Narcutt said. So it’s been hard but a lot of fun.”

Vocal director Ben Loyst said it can be challenging to create a “full musical sound” in a high school show because sometimes vocal parts have to be cut to accommodate cast limitations. He said it’s his job to adapt and come up with tricks to bypass those difficulties.

“We do have a lot of trained singers and a lot of very adept singers, but because it’s a high school show we have some newer singers that have had some trouble with that, but I was really surprised with how well they managed,” he said.

The musical is known for some tricky songs with made-up words like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Chim Chim Cher-ee, but Loyst said it helps that the students entered the production familiar with those numbers.

“The upside is that they’re all songs that we know. The downside is now they have to learn completely new parts to those songs and it is quite complicated music, surprisingly so, in fact,” he said.

Chroeographer Miranda Atkinson said she based her dance moves largely on the stage musical version while making adjustments to best suit the cast.

“With high school kids you don’t always end up with professional dancers, but this group especially has been very keen. We’ve got a lot of really good dancers so I’ve had the opportunity to give them something a bit more challenging and I’m really excited about it,” she said.

“Broadway musicals are my thing, they’re what I love to do and what I’m passionate about, so I like working on them with teens because we connect on that level of loving musicals and I can sort of share my knowledge with them and they can rise to the challenge. And they very often do.”

Narcutt said his students aren’t doing the “kids’ edition,” of the musical, but instead tackling material intended for an older cast. Any pressure they feel, they put on themselves.

“The music and the shows that we choose are not watered-down versions,” he said.

“The shows that we’re doing are the exact same shows with the exact same orchestration that you have in a professional show, but it’s all played and sung by kids. So it’s ambitious.”

WHAT’S ON … Dover Bay Secondary School’s production of Mary Poppins begins with a preview show on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. All tickets that night are $8. Show runs from Dec. 12 to 16 at 7 p.m. Tickets for those shows are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors.

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