Behind the curtain

A glance into the inner workings of the spring musical Mary Poppins


Nick Prince, Reporter

Putting on a musical is no easy feat. From moving set pieces to choreographing dance numbers, there are so many aspects that have to be perfected before a live show. Many actors and dancers can be seen on the stage, but there’s even more that happens behind the curtain that can’t be seen from the audience. Here’s a look into five parts of the rehearsal process for Mary Poppins that you might not have otherwise known:


Whenever we utilize flying in our productions, it’s always for good reason. It adds to the spectacle and keeps audiences engaged. However, a lot of work has to be put in to have our actors fly safely and successfully. We have to install intricate rigs backstage, as well as have an entire rehearsal dedicated to choreographing the flying and making sure both the actor and the adults feel comfortable. The flying actor is strapped into a harness and has to learn how to control their body in a completely new way, all while adults backstage are controlling their ropes and making sure they stay safe. In Mary Poppins, Bert has to fly over the rooftops in ‘Step in Time’, and Mary Poppins flies in ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ and ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’, so both actors will have to be trained and rehearse a lot.

Dance Numbers

There are a wide variety of dance numbers in Mary Poppins, many of which utilize different dance styles and props. In act one, ‘Jolly Holiday’ is a number with the sharp, synchronized movements of the upper class park strollers, but also features some graceful ballet as performed by the park statues. ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, as the name implies, is quite complicated and includes lightning-quick hand and body movements which represent the letters in the title of the song. In act two, ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ features colorful kites that soar above the stage, and ‘Step in Time’ is a huge ensemble number consisting of tap dancing that showcases dance in an ensemble, small groups, and soloists.


Of course, Mary Poppins takes place in England, where there are a myriad of different dialects and accents. Each and every character in this show has an accent. The two main accents we use are cockney, which is typically associated with people of lower status, and British RP, which is usually spoken by people of the upper class. Bert and his chimney sweeps all have deep, cockney accents, whereas Mary and the members of the Banks household speak in more proper RP accents.

Set Pieces and Props

Mary Poppins is a massive show as far as props and set pieces go. As mentioned before, almost every dance number has dozens of props involved, whether it’s parasols, kites, or brushes and brooms, and these always need to be kept track of and used at the right times. There are also a lot of props used in the Banks’ home, including the kitchen and the children’s nursery, in the candy shop, and in the bank. As far as set pieces go, we haven’t had sets this large in almost four years when we performed My Fair Lady. The Banks’ house has giant walls, beds, furniture, and even an entire staircase. In fact, for ‘Step in Time’, there is a roof set that is climbed on and out of, as well as chimneys scattered about the stage that chimney sweeps pop out of. These pieces require a lot of hands to be moved, with many actors and tech crew members having to move set pieces throughout the show. We also have a prop master whose sole job is to keep track of the props and make sure they get on and off stage when they need to.

Differences from the Movie

The Mary Poppins movie is loved by many, but what many people don’t realize is that it is quite different from the musical. Many songs and scenes appear in one and not the other, and the different variations even have different characters. For example, our production includes songs like ‘Cherry Tree Lane’, ‘Brimstone and Treacle’, and ‘Anything Can Happen’, all of which the movie does not include. The movie also has prominent characters that are absent from the musical such as the housemaid, Ellen, and the man with a strange laughing condition named Uncle Albert. However, this is offset by the musical characters such as Miss Andrew, the wicked nanny, and Robertson Ay, the clumsy servant, who do not appear in the movie.

If you find yourself in the audience this weekend or next,  be sure to look out for these things. Many might think this would ruin the magic, but it’s likely to make you enjoy the show more and appreciate all the hard work, time, and dedication that has been put in from our cast, crew, and directors. Plus, Mary has enough magic in her to share.