Ryan Gibbs wasn't caught in the post-Thanksgiving retail rush last weekend.

The York County native said all was normal as he walked the streets of Montreal, where people celebrate Thanksgiving in October.

While Gibbs' wife and mom braved holiday crowds at the Lancaster outlets, his mind was on chimney sweeps, umbrellas and all things supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Making magic on stage is part of a day's work for Gibbs, the production stage manager on the Broadway tour of "Mary Poppins."

Gibbs oversees other stage managers and runs what happens backstage. He cues lights, scenery and characters into action.

"We're air traffic controllers," he joked. In addition, he prepares rehearsal spaces and schedules. He teaches understudies the show.

It all brings the classic tale to life for young audience members and jogs memories of older viewers, who might have read the books or watched the movie years ago.

"With 'Mary Poppins,'

everyone has a connection," Gibbs said, "There are some nice surprises ... and you'll see some familiar things. (It has) all of the magic and all the signature songs."

From Canada, the show will stop in Norfolk, Va. Then, on Tuesday, it comes to Hershey Theatre. Opening night will mark one year since Gibbs' first day in the office working on the show.

The musical rehearsed in New York City, where Gibbs lives between tours, for a week. Then, it headed south for more technical work before it opened in Providence, R.


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I., in February. Andrew Eckert, another local, is part of the ensemble.

As a kid, Gibbs got involved in theater through acting at South Eastern School District, he said. By the time he got to Kennard-Dale High School, he was more interested in set and light design. He earned a degree in directing and stage production.

For the last 12 years, Gibbs has been putting his training to use locally - at Allenberry Playhouse, Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre and Fulton Theatre - and nationally, with Broadway shows and tours.

In 2007, he was production stage manager for the tour of "Rent," which held a dress rehearsal at Penn State York's Pullo Family Performing Arts Center. He's also worked on "The Drowsy Chaperone," "Avenue Q" and "Wicked."

"Every (show) is a little special," Gibbs said. "('Mary Poppins') is a reminder of childhood once a day or twice a day."

What makes it even more special, he added, is that his family will be able to attend one of the Hershey performances.

"It's nice to be close to home for the holidays," he said. "I think I'll make the drive to my mom's house in Fawn Grove. I can't wait to drive down the streets and see how Hershey's done up and see how everybody's ready for the season."

But it's not likely that Gibbs will get a white Christmas. The show will be in Florida for most of December. Since Disney produced the "Mary Poppins" movie, Gibbs said the proximity to Disney World will be appropriate.

It also fits with the wacky Mary Poppins universe that he might see snow in June when the show wraps in Alaska.

- ERIN McCRACKEN,
FlipSide staff
About 'Mary Poppins'

Mary Poppins is the title character of a series of children's books written by P. L. Travers, which were published from the 1930s to the 1980s. Poppins is a magical English nanny, blown by the East wind to No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane in London, where she cares for the Banks children. In 1964, the stories were turned into a Disney musical film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

Andrews won an Oscar for the role.

If you go

See "Mary Poppins" Tuesday through Dec. 9 at the Hershey Theatre, 15 E. Caracas Ave., Hershey. The Broadway tour of the popular children's book and movie plays 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Dec. 6; 8 p.m. Dec. 7; 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 8 and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 9. Tickets start at $29. For details and tickets, call 717-534-3405 or visit www.hersheytheatre.com.

Hershey Theatre is offering an ASL interpreted performance for the deaf and hard of hearing 1 p.m. Dec. 9. For assistance, call Hershey's TTY number at 717-534-8955. For details about the Broadway tour, visit www.marypoppins.com. Poppins by the numbers

9 - tractor trailers the show travels in

18 - hours it takes to install the show in a venue

2 - days it takes to set up the show for a week's worth of performances

8 - hours it takes to pack up the show

148 - hours to tech the show

36 - cast members, including four children

100 - about the number of people involved with the show, including cast, crew and orchestra

Source: Ryan Gibbs