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BWW Feature: Hale Centre Theatre Flies Again with MARY POPPINS

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BWW Feature: Hale Centre Theatre Flies Again with MARY POPPINS

Hale Centre Theatre has quietly reopened in Sandy with a fanciful, high caliber new production of MARY POPPINS to fill the void of blockbuster musical theatre.

Without fanfare, the non-profit theatre announced its production plans for the remainder of the 2020 season, while also revealing an ambitious 2021 season.

Originally intended to play the Centre Stage Theatre April 29-July 11, MARY POPPINS will now play July 1-September 5. BRIGHT STAR, which lost two months of its initial run in the smaller Jewel Box Theatre due to the COVID-19 shutdown, will make up lost time through August 15.

Due to the compressed timeline and high cost of Hale Centre Theatre's planned production of TITANIC, which was to flood the stage with water, that show was cancelled, with great hopes from patrons that it will appear in an upcoming season. In its place, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, which missed its intended summer bow in the Jewel Box, will be presented on the Centre Stage September 14-October 24.

Moving forward as originally announced will be MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (August 24-November 14), TARZAN (November 9-January 16), and A CHRISTMAS CAROL (November 27-December 26).

The 2021 season will include: THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG (January 15-April 3), A TALE OF TWO CITIES (February 1-March 20), GUYS AND DOLLS (April 5-May 29), DADDY LONG LEGS (April 12-June 19), CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (June 14-August 14), Always...Patsy Cline (June 26-August 28), THE SECRET GARDEN (August 30-October 23), MOUSETRAP (September 6-November 20), and PETER PAN (November 8-January 15, 2022).

Although audience members sit shoulder to shoulder without reduced capacity, the theatre is complying with all state and local government mandates for gatherings including a strict requirement for all audience members to be masked at all times. Other policies include rigorous testing and screening for actors and other employees, contact tracing, hand sanitizing stations and frequent disinfecting of surfaces, social distancing markers, and no paper programs or concessions. The theatre's COVID-19 Safety Guide can be found at www.hct.org.

Audience members are complying fully with the precautionary measures, always wearing masks while in the building and social distancing from other households whenever possible. They seem grateful for the escapism provided by quality live entertainment while still feeling safe.

Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's MARY POPPINS (music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, George Stiles, and Anthony Drewe; book by Julian Fellowes) is based on both the Walt Disney film and the original stories by P.L. Travers. Because of this, the plot takes a number of detours that will be unexpected for those only familiar with the motion picture. At its heart, MARY POPPINS is a story about family. When Jane and Michael Banks are in need of a new nanny, the magical Mary Poppins arrives to teach them and their parents that what they really need is so much more.

Brittany Sanders (double cast with Debra Weed Hahn) returns to playing the title role after doing so in Hale Centre Theatre's 2014 production. Vocally she is still practically perfect in every way, and her solid depiction of the iconic character has been refined over time. She brings the requisite firmness and precision but also melts slightly softer in key moments as she subtly reveals Mary Poppins' heart and intentions.

Cecily Ellis-Bills (double cast with Michelle Blake) is divine as Mrs. Banks with a characterization that is reminiscent of the movie's portrayal but that digs into the deep well of her emotions to create a portrait of a real woman struggling to find her place.

Andrew Hansen's performance (double cast with Darren Poulsen) is a wonderful companion to hers, as it also taps on nostalgia for the film while making the part his own.

Other highlights of the cast include Ben Butters as Bert (single cast), Michelle Sundwall as Katie Nanna/Bird Woman/Miss Andrews (double cast with Jennifer Parker Hohl), Nolan Reinbold as Michael (double cast with Payson Inkley), and Lydia Oakeson as Jane (double cast with Alice Alcorn).

Director Dave Tinney has carefully balanced the emotional resonance of the piece with the spectacular and magical elements, including the vibrant costume design by Kelsey Nichols, properties design by Michelle Jensen, and lighting design by Michael Gray.

The scenic design by Kacey Udy utilizes a unique umbrella-centered concept that sweeps the audience away, with some moments grounded in detailed historical reality and others awash in giddy fantasy. The most memorable is a massive amalgamation of an umbrella and the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral that floats in mid-air.

As usual, Bobby Gibson's projections are simply first-class. Thoughtfully crafted and superbly animated, they are subtle but striking and, first and foremost, they tell the story without pulling focus. Their use in "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is nothing short of genius.

Attending the production, for those willing to comply with the essential health precautions and who feel comfortable and safe doing so, will help support Hale Centre Theatre's efforts to keep large-scale musical theatre alive at this difficult time.

MARY POPPINS plays through September 5, 2020. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.hct.org.


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From This Author Tyler Hinton