Key cast members ready for ‘Mary Poppins’ debut
By: DANIEL WINNINGHAM
Enquirer Democrat Managing Editor
Summer Repertory’s production of “Mary Poppins” debuts Thursday, July 18, at Blackburn College’s Bothwell Auditorium.
A few of the characters from the upcoming show discussed this year’s musical and the significance of being involved with the Summer Repertory program.
Jeffery Gosnell portrays “Burt.” This is his ninth year in Summer Rep, where he has been involved with 15 shows.
“I love watching the young kids, who are doing their first show, get the taste for theatre,” he said. “I’ve been doing Summer Rep theatre long enough that I’ve seen little ones become primary characters, main characters. It’s always great to watch that little shy kid on stage, who you just know in a few years they’re gonna be the star.”
Gosnell was optimistic the rehearsals were rounding into form.
“Every year, for people that are new, this is the time where they are starting to get worried about where the production is at,” he said. “I remember my first show, being at this stage of production, thinking there’s absolutely no way we can bring it together and the first dress rehearsal it just all clicks.
“Right now, based on the other shows I’ve been on, we’re right on track to put on a great production.”
A year ago, Gosnell played Chef Louie in “The Little Mermaid.” Prior to that, he played Lumiere in “Beauty in the Beast.”
As part of a previous murder mystery production, Gosnell delivered another unpredictable performance.
“Every time you thought I was the murderer, I’d end up getting killed,” he said.
Playing a major role takes dedication, but Gosnell says it has long-term rewards.
“You make a committment to the theatre, and it is your life for a period of about three months,” he said. “In the process of it, this cast and crew become your family. The closest people in my life are other adults from Summer Rep theatre productions. Long after the shows are over, we’re still getting together and goofing off and having a good time. Summer Rep is my family, and I’ve never had that experience in any other part of my life.
“The best characters are the ones where I get to play something totally different from who I am. I love doing bad accents, and I love playing the character that can get the laughs, and Burt is that kind of character.”
Analise Best of Staunton portrays “Mary Poppins.” She is in her second year with Summer Repertory.
“I enjoy all the people as a whole, I love my Summer Rep family, but I wanted to go for this role because it gives you more musical opportunities as you get older,” she said.
How about the challenge of handling employment and rehearsals?
“It’s definitely been stressful, but at the end it’s for sure worth it,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun, a lot of memories to make.”
“You can have a job, but it’s definitely hard to juggle, with all the sports and everything, it’s exhausting,” she said. “I used to play summer softball and there’s no summer sports (for me). You’ve got to be really dedicated to this.”
How is your role as Mary Poppins different than previous roles with Summer Rep?
Last year, she was “Arista,” one of the mersisters in “The Little Mermaid.” That character was “sassy and fun loving,” with just three scenes no solos.
As for “Mary Poppins,” Best said she is “All down to business, strict but likes to have fun at the same time and enjoy herself.”
Best hopes to inspire others to one day become involved in theatre.
“I hope that they see that anything can happen if you let it,” she said. “That dreams are out there for you, you just have to go chase them.”
Bill Kaegy portrays Mr. George Banks. He has been involved with Summer Rep for 11 years. Kaegy first saw the Disney film “Mary Poppins” years ago and the role of Mr. Banks stuck with him.
“I loved the movie when I first saw it years and years and years ago, and I really felt an affinity for George Banks and that’s the role I tried out for and got. I just really wanted to play this role.”
How difficult is it to go from auditions to rehearsals, and then performing on stage?
“It’s very difficult,” he said. “With all the dancing and choreography and music, and the different places that we rehearse in. Sometimes we’re here (at Bothwell). When we first started, we were at Woodson Hall and it was just a big room, and transitioning on to the stage and then working with the sets. Once (set constructor) Leland Smith starts getting them built and that, and working that in, that’s some of the hard parts, how we work all that in.”
Kaegy wants those attending to get a few of the classic tunes stuck in their head.
“I want them to have a good time, and I want them to leave singing some of the songs,” he said. “ They’re coming here to escape life for a little bit, and I hope they have a great time.”
Earlier this year, Kaegy appeared in the Summer Repertory production of “I Don’t Have A Clue.” He serves on the board of directors with Summer Rep.
“I have a blast and I really want to see this continue,” he said.
For him, there initially was a bout of stage fright, but that’s not the case anymore.
“The first year I did it in 2008, I was so nervous, I was just terrible,” he said. “Now we’ve got to the point where we just rehearse and rehearse and when those lights come on, you really don’t even see the audience anymore. We just want everything to go so well for the audience that we’re kind of doing it for each other once we’re up on stage.”
Kelly Taylor Wilson
Kelly Taylor Wilson portrays the “Bird Lady.” She also serves on the Summer Repertory Board
“This one’s unique just because it’s a character of a fun little lady who comes out and sings,” she said. “It’s a little bit different for me because it’s music instead of (dialogue) lines as well.”
The challenge of a musical is that’s in addition to the memorization of lines by the main characters, the dancing, singing and being in harmony, are all an essential aspect of making sure the production is a success.
“It’s much more complex, and there are a lot more pieces to it,” she said.
Wilson has a simple request: She wants the audience to be entertained.
“I hope that they enjoy it, that they have as much fun actually watching it as we have putting it on.” she said.
Wilson’s experience in theatre began in middle school, and has continued for much of her life. She has even taken a few theatre classes.
“I don’t think people realize how much hard work goes into it,” Wilson noted. “What makes it come together is everybody’s hard work. It’s not just the kids. It’s the parents of volunteers. We’ve got community members that are back here helping the whole time.”
Lexie Staggs of Litchfield portrays Mrs. Winifred Banks.
“My first show here was ‘Shrek’ (in 20**) and ever since then I’ve just kind of fit in with everybody doing it,” Best said. “I have a really time here and I love to sing and be goofy.”
“I hope (people) get that we put a lot of time and effort into it, that we had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs,” she said.
Asked about the most challenging aspect of this year’s production, this was Staggs’ response.
“Trying to pretend that a I love a 50-year-old man,” she said.
Jeffery Gosnell, Jimmy Wilson and Emily Schneider practice a scene at Tuesday’s dress rehearsal.
Enquirer-Democrat photo by Daniel Winningham.
From left, cast members Jeffery Gosnell, Ellie Wilson, Analise Best and Havoc Englin portray “Burt,” “Jane,” “Mary Poppins” and “Michael” during a dress rehearsal at Bothwell Auditorium at Blackburn College July 16.
Enquirer-Democrat photo by Daniel Winningham.