'Mary Poppins' lands on Eichelberger stage
It takes a lot of practice and core strength for Jay Auburn to walk up the wall, parallel to the stage. Relief comes, he said, when he finally reaches the ceiling and flips upside down.
Auburn has been practicing his role as Bert in the Disney musical "Mary Poppins" at The Eichelberger Performing Arts Center in Hanover with somersaults, singing and, of course, a harness.
"The first time I did it, I got about 10 feet up the wall and I realized I hadn't breathed yet," he said, adding that despite his first experience with the aerial act, the feat is not as difficult as people might think. "My back posture actually is better upside down."
"Mary Poppins" is being produced by the Acts of Kindness Theatre Company and directed by Rene Staub, who runs the theater company with his wife, Jessica.
Though "Poppins" is the sixth time the Staubs have produced a musical with actors using ropes to fly on stage, the show will be a new sight for local theater-goers. The rights to the show were just released for community theaters to perform last year, Jessica Staub said.
"People haven't seen this on a stage before unless they went to Broadway or saw a tour group," she said. "Some local high school groups have performed it, but we're really the first community group to do it."
Acts of Kindness employs the flying effects service ZFX, which provides equipment and a flying director to help theater companies around the country realize aerial-based productions.
Three actors in "Mary Poppins," including Auburn, were trained to perform their roles from the air.
Zoe Wildasin, who plays Mary Poppins, is a veteran flyer with Acts of Kindness. During the company's production of "Tarzan," Wildasin donned a harness to perform the role of Jane.
Still, each role that requires an actor to take flight requires something a little different, she said.
"Last year, all the characters flying in Tarzan were animals," Wildasin said.
This show, she said, is all about the magic.
"This is a very ethereal moment," Staub told the cast during a rehearsal of the number "Let's Go Fly A Kite" on July 9. The dancers and actors nodded their heads before gliding around the stage in a graceful, choreographed unison.
If you go
What: "Mary Poppins" will be presented by the Acts of Kindness Theatre Company
When: Performances will be held July 24-25 at 7 p.m.; July 26 at 2 p.m.; July 31 through Aug. 1 at 7 p.m.; and Aug. 2 at 2 p.m.
Where: The Eichelberger Performing Arts Center at 195 Stock Street in Hanover.
How much: Tickets range in price from $12 to $19. They are available for purchase at the Eichelberger Perfomring Arts Center box office or online at the Eichelberger website.
More: Proceeds will benefit the Adams County Arts Council