Dakota prepares for ‘Mary Poppins’ production

By: Thomas Franz | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published February 3, 2016

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Dakota High School senior Bethany Moses was feeling a little stressed out during play rehearsal Jan. 27.

Having just completed midterms, she was now turning her full attention to her lead role in Dakota’s musical production of “Mary Poppins.”

“It’s been a little insane, but it will all come together. I know that definitely. It always does,” Moses said.

Moses has already played a pair of lead characters in productions during her time at Dakota, so this is nothing new for her. She previously played the character of Maria in “West Side Story” and Sarah Brown in “Guys and Dolls.”

With Mary Poppins, Moses said she has to act a bit more pompous than what she would normally act like.

“I think with my first lead which I had my sophomore year, she was very restricted and an introvert. She was definitely different from Mary Poppins,” Moses said. “She’s kind of conceited, and I don’t think of myself that way, so it’s been kind of hard. I don’t always talk like her, so it’s been interesting, but I still adapted.”

Dakota has been preparing to host “Mary Poppins” for two years. The school was awarded amateur rights to the show, but not in time to put together a production for the 2015-15 school year. After opting for “West Side Story” last year, work began on this year’s production this past fall.

There are 65 cast members, but director Kelly Schmidt said there are 130 students involved in putting on the show.

Outside of the cast, the pit orchestra consists mostly of students, with the exception of five professional musicians. The school’s Key Club will be ushers for the shows, and the play’s tech crew is also student-run.

The paintings and other artwork that will be used in the production were created by Dakota’s National Art Honors Society.

“It’s basically been a whole school event for this show,” Schmidt said. “It’s a really huge show if you want to do it right. It takes a lot of planning and preparation.”

Also helping with the performances are several members of Dakota’s football team. The production will involve flying three cast members across the stage, which means ample muscle is required to operate rigging machines backstage.

“Some of our football players have volunteered to do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to flying the equipment and flying the kids,” Schmidt said. “They’re amazing people too. They really support the arts.”

Also included in the show will be a large group of younger children between the ages of 2 and 5. Schmidt said the children will be playing the role of dancing penguins in one scene.

“We have teachers’ children, community leaders’ children, people from the board office, their kids are in it, so it’s really neat,” Schmidt said.

A fourth-grader from Mohawk Elementary will also be playing a key role in the production. J.D. Lenkevich will be playing the character of Michael Banks.

Other key roles went to senior Andrew Montano (George Banks), senior Angeline Kanan (Winifred Banks), junior Peter Dedaj (Bert), freshman Madison Fairman (Jane Banks), junior Sam Danko (Robertson Ay), junior Ashley DeBeaussaert (Mrs. Brill) and senior Jake Hille (Miss Andrew).

Schmidt said those characters and the rest of the cast will be putting on a show quite different from previous years.

“We’ve been doing ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘West Side Story,’ which have adult roles and emotions. Though we have some people playing adult roles, we never did a 1910 time period. It was time to change the scenery, change the setting, and give the students more exposure of a different time period to learn about and study,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt added that she hopes her cast members, and people who see the show, take away the lessons from the play and use them in their daily lives.

“It reminds you to take the lessons of Mary Poppins, not that she is a magical nanny, but more that anything can happen if you let it,” Schmidt said. “More importantly, this whole show is about family and where you decide to spend your time, and how important it is to treat each other kindly.”

The shows will be running at 7 p.m. Feb. 4-6 and Feb. 11-13. There will also be a 1 p.m. performance Feb. 6. Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased online at dakotamusical.seatyourself.biz.

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