NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The cast and crew of "Mary Poppins-The Broadway Musical," is gearing up for opening night with a high-flying production that is sure to entertain all who come to New Providence High School to see the 50 member cast take the stage to perform the classic musical this Friday night.

For the first time in a production at NPHS, the ensemble cast is made up of students from every school in New Providence. Drama teacher Craig Duke, who has been directing the plays at NPHS for 16 years said, “We had the idea of doing a whole-district large scale big family show, to involve everyone and do something we’ve never done before.”

With many shows to choose from, he settled on the iconic Mary Poppins, based on a series of books that were eventually adapted by Disney in 1964 for the famous movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. He investigated getting a fly system, and once he could technically do the show he turned to casting. “I knew we would have strong leads and a good range of younger kids,” said Duke.  

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Anchoring the show in the title role of Mary Poppins is Kara Dobias, a senior at NPHS. “I think the most challenging part of playing her is capturing the iconic character which was originated by Julie Andrews,” said Dobias. Julie Andrews won the Academy Award for her film debut in Mary Poppins and as Dobias explained, “Because she is so well known there is definitely an expectation from the audience which adds a little more pressure.” This is the fourth NPHS production for Kara and her first as the lead. Kara was accepted into the NJMEA All-State Choir this past year. In addition to singing, Kara has been involved in dance for the past 11 years. Her training has well prepared her for playing the lead in this classic production, which relies heavily on all her talents.

As Mary Poppins cohort, Bert, Noah Kudman has quite a big character to play in the wise and endearing chimney sweep. Kudman, who sings with the NPHS Men’s choir, Jazz Choir and Papermill Playhouse Broadway Show choir was more than prepared for all the singing his role required. He also appeared in “Beauty and the Beast” and “Crazy for You.” Kudman served as Drum Major for the National Championship winning NPHS Marching Band this year.

The cast soon found out that flying about the stage and walking on the ceiling is not as easy at it might appear, “The ones who were actually doing the flying found it a little more challenging than they thought,” said Duke.  As Kudman noted, “It’s definitely not something I would have been able to prepare myself for.” They spent several days training with professionals to help them learn the art of flying on the wires. “The first fly rehearsal was nerve wracking,” said Dobias, “After running through it a few times I felt much more comfortable,” she added.

Leslie Ditta, who has been choreographing for the high school productions for the last five years, has found this production to be unique. They secured the rights to the choreography for the famous stage number, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” “It was fun for me to choreograph original work," said Ditta.

She has been impressed by the cast, “These kids are so great and daring and willing to throw themselves into it," Ditta added. The company that set up the flying system trained the actors and the crew, but are not involved in the performances. So when Kudman does his proscenium walk for the musical number “Step in Time,” he is literally being held up by his classmates.

Both Dobias and Kudman enjoyed working with the younger cast members. “They made getting into my character much easier, they brought out my inner nanny and they are very talented as well,” said Dobias. “A lot of them had never been a part of something like this, so we helped them get to where they needed to be,” added Kudman.

Rounding out the cast are Kevin Dackow, a senior, as George Banks and Lara Gavagan, a junior, as Winifred Banks. Two actors play each of the Banks children. Evelyn Voss and Corrine Walsh share the role of Jane Banks while Ivan Grandov and Alexandra Skotarczak share the role of Michael Banks. Music is under the direction of Pamela Crockett.

Showtimes for Mary Poppins are Friday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 12 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for Saturday's shows can be purchased at “Seat Yourself” on-line ticketing. There is a link on the NPHS  website. [Friday's show is sold out.]