Hanna McDaniel, who plays the title role with the B cast, acts in a scene of "Mary Poppins Jr." Tuesday during dress rehearsal with Bailey Bell (Michael Banks), left, and Natalee Barton (Jane Banks), center. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Philomath High School students will offer the mix of a classic story, energetic songs and well-choreographed dance numbers with a four-show run this week of “Mary Poppins Jr.”

The story, which gained widespread fame as a popular Disney film and as an award-winning Broadway musical, will be staged in the PHS auditorium at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and at 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets for all seats are $7 at the door. Split up into two casts, the “B” group performs Thursday night and Saturday afternoon and the “A” cast will go Friday and Saturday night. The doors open 30 minutes prior to showtime. 

The title character will be played by senior Ingrid Hellesto in the A cast and sophomore Hanna McDaniel in the B cast.

“I love the movies and so I’ve watched Julie Andrews’s mannerisms and stuff and how she played this role,” Hellesto said in reference to the 1964 film. “She’s this British lady who is just pristine and proper but also really kind — it’s really fun to play.”

Cast members perform a number from “Mary Poppins Jr.” during a Tuesday afternoon dress rehearsal. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Senior Micah Matthews, who plays Bert in both casts, is performing in his ninth school play. He most enjoys those moments on stage when the actors bring it all together and there’s a “we’re doing this” kind of feeling in the air.

“Whenever there’s people in the seats, you can really feel it on the stage where everyone really wants to work as a group and everyone really wants to come together and get that done,” Matthews said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does, it feels incredible.”

Hellesto said balancing choreography, singing and acting has been the toughest part for her.

“In our last play, the choreography wasn’t as intense as this play’s choreography,” she said, “but I think Lori (Haslam) did a really fantastic job capturing what this play is supposed to be all about.”

For those who haven’t seen the movie or play, Mary Poppins is set in 1910 England and features the troubled Banks family. Young Jane and Michael have sent many a nanny packing before Mary Poppins arrives on their doorstep. Using a combination of magic and common sense, she must teach the family members how to value each other again.

“They’re going to see a family in London trying to make it through some hard times,” PHS junior Bailey Bell said when asked what the audience should expect. “And hopefully, they’ll see a lot of good singing and dancing and people having fun on stage.”

Added freshman Lucy King, “Mary Poppins comes in and sort of just puts it back together. It’s super fun, lots of singing and dancing and lots of hard work went into it.”

Ike Avery plays George Banks in a scene with the B cast. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Bell plays Michael Bates in both casts.

“I really like this role because I get to interact with other people and have fun … it’s kind of cool to act like a little kid,” she said. “I mean, I get to be kind of silly and do a lot of fun things.”

Michael’s on-stage sister in the play is Jane Banks, who is played by King in the A cast and sophomore Natalee Barton in the B cast.

“I like that I get to just kind of be like a kid,” King said. “I get to throw a temper tantrum, which is pretty fun. I kind of grew up as a good kid so it’s kind of nice to be bratty.”

King said she’s got the singing down but has found the dancing to be a challenge.

“If you come, you’ll see a lot of people who are really good and then you’ll see me,” she said laughing. “But I’m working on it.”

It takes more than actors to pull off a school play and the students behind the scenes also work hard. Sophomore Thatcher Noel serves as the tech director.

PHS sophomore Thatcher Noel is the tech director on the play. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

“It can be difficult if there are a lot of things breaking and how much is going on,” Noel said when asked about his responsibilities in that role. “There are a lot of lighting cues I have to set up and that can be pretty difficult.”

Noel said one of the other challenges was just trying to put the tech team together.

“We had to pull from the middle school to get some people to be in the tech group and teaching them within the limited amount of time to be able to support me and my crew (was difficult),” he said.

Matthews admits there have been hiccups with the crews and actors.

“Getting all that to come together is a bit of a trick but it’s going pretty well,” he said.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.