Ava Code, left, Dean Cropper, Rigo Jimenez and Stefani Potter in Camelot's production of 'Mary Poppins.' [Photo by Steve Sutfin]

'Anything can happen if you let it'

Camelot Theatre is aiming for the fences — or perhaps the rooftops — this holiday season with its first production of the classic musical "Mary Poppins."

"You can only see 'White Christmas' so many times," says Dann Hauser, Camelot Theatre's executive director. "We sent out about 10,000 emails and asked our patrons what they wanted to see. Camelot is known for its musicals, especially during the holidays. It's a better show for us if we get the whole family together."

The magic begins as Bert, a chimney sweep, invites the audience into the world of London in 1910 — and into the dysfunctional home of the Banks family. The children, young Jane and Michael, have sent another nanny packing. She dismisses the children as spoiled and misbehaved. With a workaholic father and a distracted mother, the children have long gone without strong forces in their lives.

When Mary Poppins arrives on their doorstep, she uses a combination of magic and common sense to teach the family how to value each other. Her transformative influence goes beyond the children. Even the grown-ups learn a lesson or two from the nanny who advises that "Anything can happen if you let it."

This high-flying musical — based on the stories of author P.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney film "Mary Poppins" and with music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers, additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and script by Julian Fellowes — originally opened in 2004 in London's West End and won two Olivier Awards. A Broadway production with a near-identical creative team opened in 2006 and received seven Tony Award nominations, including best musical and winning for best scenic design.

The show will preview Thursday, Nov. 30, open Friday, Dec. 1, and run through Dec. 31 at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. and Saturday or Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Tickets for the Nov. 30 preview are $18. All other tickets are $29 or $36. Tickets and information available at camelottheatre.org or 541-535-5250. The box office is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances..

Full of rooftop dance numbers, magical illusions such as Poppins' flying umbrella and a flying car, "Mary Poppins" is not an easy musical to bring to life.

“We had a hard time making Mary fly," he says. "We had to do it through graphics. We had the same problem making the car fly in our production of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Our stage team will use a range of technology to make audiences feel Mary flying onto the stage."

Director Roy Von Rains gives a similar nod to the backstage team.

“The technical elements have been the biggest challenges," he says. "We’re doing a lot with the chimney sweeps and some visual tricks as Mary pulls props out of her carpet bag. I have a great technical crew working on this production.”

Von Rains also credits the costume designs with bringing the show its magic.

"The costumes are an incredible challenge," he says. "While Mary is in a park, she transforms statues immediately into life."

Costume designer Addie Hall works at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and has several movies to her credit, including “Mona Lisa Smile” with Julia Roberts.

Newcomer Stephani Potter debuts in the title role of "Mary Poppins." Look for her booming voice in such unforgettable songs as "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Feed the Birds," "Step in Time" and the classic "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," among all the others.

"Her talent for dancing, singing and acting has a fearless quality," Von Rains says. "She's made my job so much easier. She's practically perfect in every way."

The cast also features some children from the theater's Musical Conservatory summer program.

Dean Cropper and Ava Code play the Bankses children, and others include Link Baldwin, Magill Echo, Mason Hill, Will Ransom, Alanah Rilatos, Jonah Santana and Elena Schmeling.

Rigo Jimenez returns to Camelot as Burt, the chimney sweep. The role of George Banks is played by Erik Connolly and Jon Oles, and Kelly Jean Hammond plays Winifred Banks.

Set design is by Nicholas Hewitt, lighting is by Bart Grady and video and sound are by Brian O'Connor. Musical direction is by Karl Iverson, and choreography is by Sarah Gore.

While Von Rains is clearly enthusiastic about all the elements of the play, ultimately, he says, it's the timelessness of the story of Mary Poppins that makes the musical.

"My thoughts go to the heart of the story," he says. "It’s about bringing a family back together. My favorite part is the family. It was a family that was fractured. The real magic is how the Banks family transforms over the course of the play. That's what is truly important.”

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