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By Cheyne Nomura. October 20, 2014 - 12:18 pm
Despite the lack of trade winds these past couple of months, Diamond Head Theatre managed to find the perfect amount of winds in the east for Mary Poppins to make her appearance on its celebrated stage.
Celebrating its 100th season, the theatre opens with the hotly chattered stage adaptation of the beloved Disney film. By now, you’ve probably seen and read many reviews of the show in “Midweek”, online, and the newspaper, so rather than writing a review of the show from the point of view of a spectator, you will read from the perspective of those who have helped make the magic all happen.
As a current full-time graduate student by night and teacher by day, one would assume that my plate is full of busyness. Indeed, it is, but that busyness rose to the next level when I found my way to Cherry Tree Lane as a backstage crew member. The show was to open in eight days, and the 10 crew members who came aboard had a lot of responsibility on their shoulders—the biggest being creating the show’s magic.
Part of creating a magical show involved getting Poppins (played by DHT vet Tricia Marciel—“Chicago”, “Les Misérables”, “The King and I”, “The Goodbye Girl”, “Show Boat”) to fly, as well as guest director, choreographer, and leading man David Spangenthal as Bert, for the most impressive number in the show, Step in Time, a ten-minute sequence of non-stop tap dancing.
However, “Step in Time” is not the only number full of delight and joy. Memorable classics from the Disney film have made their way to the stage version. Feed the Birds, acted and sung beautifully by another DHT vet, Lisa Konove (“Cinderella”, “Annie”, “White Christmas”, “Show Boat”, “The Sound of Music”) as the Bird Woman is sure to tug at heartstrings.
“Let’s go Fly a Kite”, another fan favorite, is included, and, of course, a kite is flown onstage and Mary makes her reappearance back on stage from the sky. Perhaps the most elegant and pleasing to the eye number, Jolly Holiday, is filled with dancing penguins, a carousel of horses, and Mary’s sophisticated red and white dress and hat.
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, a number comprised with grandiose wigs and fluorescent colors is most certainly precocious with precisely choreographed dancing that causes the audience to heap thunderous cheers. Finally, the song that resonates most with all, A Spoonful of Sugar, is “most delightful.” The kitchen, which was made a mess by the children, is fixed by Mary’s snap of a finger, and it is the responsibility of the crew to synchronize with Marciel’s snaps to make the magic effortless and credible.
All involved with this show have expressed their delight and humility as being part of it. Lea Woods Almanza, who makes her sophomore DHT debut after her mesmerizing leading performance in “Show Boat”, plays the ever so ambivalent Mrs. Banks who constantly tries to be a good house wife and mother. Almanza expressed her excitement due to the choreographed magic both on stage and behind-the-scenes, but further expressed her delight in working with such a talented company of people.
“[We’re] all living the chaos for the same reason – to make the magic happen and for the love of this amazing, 100-year old company [who’re] representing all corners of our isle, giving towards a live treasure that is truly a gem of our community that gives back to the current and future generations,” said Almanza.
Venis Goodman, also making his sophomore debut after this summer’s crowd-pleaser “Spamalot”, plays the patriarch, Mr. Banks, who simply demands precision and order, a common trope of the spectacle.
“[There’s] so much talent at all ages. It has been an amazing experience, one I will treasure always,” articulated Goodman.
He further voiced how astonishing it’s been to work with children who are not only heaps of talent, but motivated and industrious.
“When first asked about working with children, I was like, ‘sure, as long as they are well behaved and learn their parts.’ Was I in for a shock when they were off-book long before I was. And we couldn’t have had more polite, well-mannered kids who were eager to learn and please. I don’t know when they did homework. I am truly impressed. I am so proud to play their father—though I never know if it’s team glitter or rhinestone performing until just before places,” Goodman said.
His last remark refers to the group of children who play Jane and Michael Banks. Due to the demands of the role and arduous performance schedule, the roles are alternated by groups of children (Team Glitter and Rhonestone), played by Camille Perry and Rylie Goto as Jane, and Luke Ellis and Matias Durkin as Michael.
On a personal level, being a part of this company has been a truly joyful experience. I grew up with Mary Poppins both the film and novel, and the presence of the show on this little `aina has emanated magic not only into the performers, crew members, and theatre staff, but the patrons of the theatre who are the ones responsible for sustaining the thriving dwelling for 100 years. Helping to create the magic—whether getting Marciel and Spangenthal to fly which create thunderous applause, meticulously maneuvering the kitchen set to fix the shelves, or slamming doors in the faces of nasty former nannies—is truly the worthwhile experience.
Sharing the stage with those who all have a common passion and interest for the theatre is what has contributed to the theatre’s success. The drive everyone has to create an enchanting spectacle is what has led “Mary Poppins” to its success. And based on this success, you can expect to see many of us recur our presence on this “practically perfect” stage!
“Mary Poppins” is nearly sold out, but you may contact the box office to inquire about seat availability: 733-0277. To learn more about what happens behind-the-scenes, you can visit Maricel’s blog on hittingthestage.com under her What’s Poppin’! column.
All photos by Cheyne Nomura.