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U-Hi equips ‘Mary Poppins’ cast for aerial acrobatics

University High School’s theater program is one of three drama departments statewide producing “Mary Poppins.”

“We traditionally do at least one big show each year, and we try to go bigger and better each year,” said Briane Green, U-Drama director and high school drama teacher. “This year it’s ‘Mary Poppins.’ ”

The production is a major undertaking, with close to 300 costumes, multiple hand-built sets and the use of a two-track flying system more common in Broadway productions such as “Wicked” or “American Idiot.”

Most of U-Drama’s productions cost about $25,000; this one cost $40,000, Green said. All shows are funded by ticket sales proceeds.

The flight system is impressive, said George Green, U-Drama’s assistant director. “It’s leased from the premiere theatrical flying companies for productions in the world. Mary can fly through the air gracefully. She has her own track.”

Bert and Miss Andrew are on a second track, he said. They can do spinning and flipping or other aerial acrobatics.

“We had a rehearsal that was just about learning how it would work,” said Caitlin Duffey, who plays Mary Poppins. “It was pretty incredible. You don’t exactly get to fly that often.”

Duffey didn’t audition for the role because she’d get to fly, and she’d really never imagined a role as Mary Poppins.

“When I did it, it was like: I have to do it,” said Duffey, who was born in England. “I always wanted to be Julie Andrews when I grew up. The trick is incorporating what P.L. Travers wanted, what Disney wanted and putting your own touches on it to make it your own.”

She notes that “what I was challenged with was Mary Poppins’ poise. Once I got it, it was natural.”

This is the show’s second weekend. The first one sold out except for opening night.

“I had a teacher come up to me after the show and say she forgot she’d been watching a high school production,” Duffey said. “The whole show is pretty magical.”


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