Have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious time at Anoka Middle School for the Arts’ production of “Mary Poppins Jr.” that opens at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 19, and runs through Sunday, April 28.
The musical “Mary Poppins Jr.,” with a book written by Julian Fellowes, is based on the series of books by P.L. Pravers and the 1964 Walt Disney film by the same name.
The musical follows Jane (Mahria Raza) and Michael (Sam Coombe), the children of the wealthy and uptight George (Matthew Phillips) and Winifred Banks (Keely Anderson), who are faced with the prospect of a new nanny and are pleasantly surprised by the arrival of the magical Mary Poppins (Aniya Hollie). Embarking on a series of fantastical adventures with Mary and her Cockney performer friend, Bert (Dakarai Opoka), the siblings try to pass on some of their nanny’s sunny attitude to their preoccupied parents.
The musical also stars Lacey Fieldseth (Mrs. Brill), Devah Gohl (Miss Andrew), Zander Schumacher (Robertson Ay), Olivia Surratt (Mrs. Corry) and Ethan Zajaczkowski. Brenna Bellenir, Emily Doolittle, Elijah Elliot, Anika Erickson, Sophia Gallo, Camron Hamling, Nick Hemkin-Jenson, Deacon Hummel, Lauren Larson, Malachi Leake, Claire Lockwood, Heather McAllister, Adam Poland, Erin Schommer, Isaac Stokes and Emily Taylor are part of the ensemble cast.
Twenty-eight cast members and 15 crew members are working on “Mary Poppins Jr.”
“I think ‘Mary Poppins’ provides a great message for our kids that there is so much joy, magic and hope out there,” said Anoka Middle School for the Arts Theater Department Chair Jefferson Fietek, the director of “Mary Poppins Jr.” “Even when these kids may be in a situation that’s difficult, it’s good to remember that there’s always hope and possibilities to get out of that situation.”
The crew includes costume designer Paula Anderson, set designer Matthew Kari, sound designer Levi Hansen, lighting designer Ryan Koch, choreographer Gabrielle Dominique and vocal director Jenn Jensen.
Seventh-grader Aniya Hollie is playing the title role of Mary Poppins in her first leading role. Hollie says she has been studying the mannerisms and characteristics of the two actresses who have played Mary Poppins on screen: Julie Andrews in the 1964 film and Emily Blunt in the 2018 sequel “Mary Poppins Returns.”
“I’m mimicking some of the things they have done, but I’m also adding in some of my own flavor to the role and making it my own,” she said. “Mary Poppins is such an interesting and sassy character. She’s so much fun to play.”
Sixth-grader Sam Coombe (Michael Banks) said the cast and crew is bringing Mary Poppins’ magic to the stage through eye-deceiving tricks, like with Mary’s never-ending bag and magical flying effects, which are being done with the help of the company Flying By Foy.
“It’s fun to witness all the magic happening in this musical,” he said. “It’s such an energetic, fun musical.”
“It brings a smile to my face every time I come to rehearsal,” added Hollie.
“Mary Poppins Jr.” also features original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman and new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Some of the classic songs include “Jolly Holiday,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”
“I think this show really resonates with people because it’s pure escapism that no matter what is going on in your life, you can go into Mary Poppins’ world for a while,” Fietek said. “I think that is part of the joy of theater.”
Fietek says farewell
“Mary Poppins Jr.” marks the 50th production for Anoka Middle School for the Arts. After 15 years at the school, this also marks Fietek’s final production.
Fietek recently accepted a theater teaching position at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.
“I was fortunate to have been asked to come (to Anoka Middle School for the Arts) nearly 15 years ago to build the theater program,” he said. “It was an incredible undertaking and honor.”
Fietek helped grow the Anoka Middle School for the Arts theater program by extending its season from two shows to four full-scale shows per school year. He also helped add an improvisational comedy troupe, facilitated biennial trips to New York City, added the drama club called the Thespian Society and created and hosted the first-ever Minnesota State Junior Thespian Conference.
Anoka Middle School for the Arts has four times been awarded nationally a Magnet School of Distinctions Award. Fietek has been awarded Ordway Center’s Education Award for Community Commitment, the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership’s Educator of the Year Award and the Anoka-Hennepin District’s TOP Teacher Award.
Fietek has been part of the Twin Cities theater scene over 25 years and has a Master of Fine Arts in theater from Western Illinois University.
“I am so honored to have worked with over 4,000 students through this theater program,” he said. “It has been a delight to watch the young artists here bring incredible and often challenging productions to life.”
Fietek helped direct productions like “Charlotte’s Web,” “Seussical Jr.,” “Xandu Jr.,” “1984,” “Harvey,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Beauty and the Beast Jr.”
He said some of his fondest memories in the theater program have been when he, his students and their families worked to raise thousands of dollars for suicide prevention, collected thousands of pounds of food over the years for local food shelves, and gathered toys for kids in need while also bringing awareness to issues of drug addiction, homelessness and domestic abuse.
“I am so proud of the work that my theater families have done to address the needs of our community over the years,” he said “I am so proud to have been part of the positive impact that this theater program has had on the community.”
Anoka Middle School for the Arts is currently looking for someone to replace Fietek.
“It was an incredibly tough decision to leave the theater program here, but I’m confident that this amazing group of talented students and dedicated parents can continue to grow the program,” Fietek said.
To learn more about “Mary Poppins,” visit amsatheater.org.
If you go
What: “Mary Poppins Jr.”
When: 7:30 p.m. April 19-20, 25-27 and 2 p.m. April 28
Where: Fred Moore Campus of Anoka Middle School for the Arts, 1523 Fifth Ave. S, Anoka
Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students under 18, and $3 for children 5 and under
Info: amsatheater.org, 1-866-967-8167