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Auburn High School’s Mary Poppins – timeless, honored, and flying high

By Amy Polumbo-LeClaire

Mary Poppins - a timeless favorite that has captivated audiences for years - has flown in and settled on the Auburn High front stage under the direction of theater guru, Nicholas LaPete, a UMass Amherst graduate who has choreographed numerous plays, which include 12 Angry Jurors, Legally Blonde, Footloose and, his 2017 debut Auburn High show - as Director - Les Miserables. Mary Poppins audiences are to expect an impressive show of flying, “wonderfully talented singing performances” and a story that never gets old.

“Mary Poppins is about listening to yourself and trusting yourself and not forgetting that inside each of us is a little kid that still needs to be loved and engaged and disciplined at times,” said LaPete. “I think that’s why the story is so time-honored and audiences love it. It’s a kooky, weird thing but audiences keep coming back because it reminds us that it’s okay to be the big kids we’re meant to be. The whole reason Mary ‘pops’ in…” he goes on, appreciating the play on words, “is to get the kids to parent the parents and show them that their kids are only kids for so long. Childhood is brief.”

Of Nick’s theater success (last year two of his students won the prestigious TAMY awards for their Les Miserables performances), Music and Band Director Ginny Bailey, who originally encouraged him to apply for the theater position a few years back, said, “Nick is great. We’re thrilled with his energy, enthusiasm, and passion.”

“I was a Bartlett High choir kid and band member,” recalled LaPete. “As a Webster native, I was familiar to the area and had choreographed many years before. I saw the potential in the (Auburn) program and here we are.”

Scheduled for three live performances on consecutive spring days (April 6, 7, and 8) an enthusiastic Mary Poppins cast has been steadily rehearsing their lines while—on perfect pitch and cue—belting out the easier-to-sing-than-spell SUPERCALAFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS song. Grateful for their stage opportunity, the young actors and actresses commented joyfully about their roles.

Said Derek Brigham, who plays the role of Bert (a narrator) in Mary Poppins and, last year, received a TAMY award (best featured actor in a musical) for his portrayal of Monsieur Thenardier, “Theater has definitely changed my direction. The award gave me that extra thing to help decide on what I want to be doing in college. I was very surprised about the award, considering that I was an underclassman. I think I received it because every time he (Thenardier) came on stage, you automatically start to laugh.”

The young actor’s humility betrays the magnitude of the honor, LaPete admitted, adding that twenty-six schools from Central Mass, located as far out as Chelmsford, are involved in the competition.

Madison Poshkus, the Auburn High actress who plays Mrs. Winifred Banks, mother of “the kids that marry the nannies” described her character with an understanding that, perhaps, surpasses her sixteen years of age. “In the musical she is different from the movie. She is a woman of her generation. Her husband goes to work and she stays at home to host parties and be a typical wife of the 1900s. Her husband does not treat her very well. She is fiercely devoted to her family. This is a very different role for me.”

The role of Mary Poppins, played by actress Angelique Davis, an AHS Junior, is certain to wow the crowd, given her talent, experience, and appreciation for her character. “I am super excited for this show. I have been acting forever. It’s something I have to work out—to always improve but I have a passion for it. I like how self-confident and how unusual Mary Poppins is. Her essence isn’t something you’d encounter every day. She’s…” the actress sighs with a dramatic smile, “she’s pleasantly unusual. I idolize her.”

In addition to the Auburn High School cast members, the show features a few young (fourth and fifth grade) performers from Swanson Road Intermediate School who auditioned for, and will play the roles of Michael and Jane. They are Tyler Cottle and Abigayle Simpson.

Furthermore, “Flying by Foy” a Las Vegas company with nationwide fly directors, will work with the cast for an entire weekend to measure flyers for harnesses, properly fit costumes, and teach flying techniques.

 “It’s a different show than what AHS has done in the past,” said LaPete.  “Audiences will be impressed.” 

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Childhood is brief. Embrace a piece of yours during one of three live MARY POPPINS performances at Auburn High School. Buy your tickets on-line now.

The theater experience and performances - requiring a set builder, costume designer, technical lighting director, choreographer, sound technician, professional orchestra, and more - has been made possible by fund-raising efforts, ticket sales and “super generous sponsors.”

The Mary Poppins cast, crew, and director would like to thank all who have contributed so thoughtfully to the AHS theater experience.