Childhood classic ‘Mary Poppins’ reinvented on BYU stage

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“Mary Poppins” brings to life the classic movie and the original P.L. Travers book. (BYU Photo)

BYU Theater will perform the childhood classic “Mary Poppins” from Jan. 26 to Feb. 4 in a whole new way.

Cassie Austin-Taylor, who plays one of the Mary Poppins’, said the show is especially relevant for Latter-Day Saint audiences.

“‘Mary Poppins’ is a show about family relationships, the true meaning of happiness and like all the best stories: redemption,” Austin-Taylor said in an email.

Austin-Taylor admitted the stage show is different than the movie. Some songs are added or removed and there are slight changes in characters, so much so that it can even be considered its own performance.

“I would say our show deviates from the stereotypical Disney production just the right amount, while still honoring the best loved parts of the show,” Austin-Taylor said.

Austin-Taylor purposefully had not seen the movie in years because she wanted to make the character her own. She said a household name like Mary Poppins cannot be easily forgotten.

Austin-Taylor grew to love her character and found it easier to love those around her as well.

“(Mary Poppins) wants to help everyone that she meets to reach their full potential. It’s been a really cool experience growing closer to her,” Austin-Taylor said.

Sariah Hopkin plays another role of Mary and has found her love for the production in it’s ability to appeal to the audience’s morals.

“I think many people watch the film of Mary Poppins thinking mostly about the catchy music or the charming Burt and perfect Mary. Our show differs from that because people leave thinking less about singular characters or songs, and more about humanity in general — the beauty of our ability to grow and learn, the struggle and reward of relationships, etc.,” Hopkin said in an email.

Hopkin said she has enjoyed playing Mary Poppins because director George Nelson allowed both her and Austin-Taylor to add their personalities to the character.

Hopkin thought she would have difficulty relating to her character because of Mary Poppins’ ‘perfect’ persona, but she connected with her role when she remembered the phrase “practically perfect.”

“Even Mary Poppins has insecurities and moments of stubbornness that she has to overcome,” Hopkin said. “She is so much more human than people think.”

Hopkin recommended adults, children and teens see the show, as she believes it has something for every age group.

“When I was a kid, I saw the spectacle and the wonder that Mary was able to create,” said Carolyn Keller, who plays the role of Winifred. “As I’ve grown up, I can see that there is so much more to this story. This is a show that people of all ages will love.”

Costume designer Rory Scanlon said working on the show has allowed him to relive his favorite memories from the movie in a fun, new way. The special effects, colorful sets, lights and costumes in this “visually stunning production” demand a lot of time and effort to execute, but in the end is worth it, according to Scanlon.

“It’s light-hearted. It’s sentimental, but most of all it’s a wonderful way to make a magical night for one and all,” Scanlon said in an email. “You’ll walk away humming the tunes and smiling to yourself. Be ready to laugh, cry and sing along with an incredible cast of talented performers sure to please your entertainment need.”

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