Mary Poppins

Nearly a dozen of the 101 youths staging “Mary Poppins” at the Middle Township Performing Arts Center stuck around after rehearsal last week to talk about the play. Shown are Emily Mawhinney, as Mrs. Andres; Charlotte Grayson, as Queen Victoria; Alan Rendzak, as Bert; Kaitlyn King, as Mary Poppins; Thomas Jefferson, as George Banks; Charlotte Mendelson, as Mrs. Brill; Brynne Wiser, as Winifred Banks; Gianna Balestriere, as Bird Woman; Amelia Rendzak, as Miss Lark; Katie Grayson, as Flower Girl; Gianna Mitchell, as Flower Girl.

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Get ready to let imagination soar back in time and across the sky as about 100 area kids take theatergoers across the rooftops of merry old England in a musical performance of “Mary Poppins” at the Middle Township Performing Arts Center.

“There will be a lot of singing, dancing and acting,” said Alan Rendzak, who plays Bert in the performance. “And flying,” he added. “I get to fly.”

Last week, students gathered to rehearse the play, and nearly a dozen stuck around to talk about their roles in the production.

“We’ve got 101 students in Mary Poppins,” said Kay Aspell, director of the Middle Township Performing Arts Center, 212 Bayberry Drive. “We’ll have 90 of them onstage several times through the play.”

Another 11 students manage backstage, Aspell said.

The musical is presented by Shore Productions, a summer theater program that is designed to introduce participants to all aspects of theater, including acting, singing, dancing, backstage support and theater etiquette.

Four performances of the play are planned. A matinee 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1 leads off the production, followed by nightly performances at 7 p.m. Aug. 2-4. Tickets are $12 for adults, and $10 for students and seniors.

“Everybody is going to love the show,” said Charlottle Mendelson, who portrays Mrs. Brill. “You’re going to leave here loving it.”

It’s a full-length play, Rendzak said, and different than the movie, added Gianna Balestriere, who plays the bird woman. Balestriere wouldn’t say how the play and movie differed, but that it would be worth an audience’s time to find out.

“We’re all devoted to the play,” Balestriere said.

Getting to see how a play comes together at the PAC was cited by many as a highlight of working on the show.

“I like the evolving of the stage,” said Katie Grayson, who plays a flower girl. “It started out as a bare stage. And then they built the props. You get to see your imagination come to life.”

Rendzak built on that idea. “It comes to life. The stage is built, then there’s the rehearsals, the acting, the songs.”

“We start out hating each other at auditions,” Mendelson added. “Everyone’s so cocky, but by the end, we come together as a family.”

Some like acting well enough to be looking at the profession as a future prospect.

“My mom (Rosie) signed me up to keep me out of trouble,” said Thomas Jefferson. “I like it now, but it didn’t start out that way. But now I want to do it as a career.”

Balestriere said she has been acting since kindergarten at Bishop McHugh Regional Catholic School. “It’s one of my favorite things.”

For most of the kids, it’s the excitement that builds during rehearsals up until the opening matinee.

“A lot of singing, dancing, acting and flying,” Rendzak said. “And we get to walk on roofs.”

For more information call the PAC at 609-463-1924 or see middletwp.k12.nj.us/pac.

Middle Township Gazette reporter. Call me anytime you have news for the paper or the website. 609-365-6176