Arts & Entertainment

Somerville High School Students Prepare to Take Flight in “Mary Poppins”

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Credits: Glenn Wasserman
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Credits: Glenn Wasserman
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Credits: Glenn Wasserman
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Credits: Glenn Wasserman
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SOMERVILLE, NJ - So, what is it like to fly?

Three Somerville High School students found out this week as the Drama Club put the finishing touches on its production of “Mary Poppins,” which will take place on March 3, 4, and 5 at 7 p.m. with a special matinee on March 5 at 1 p.m.

Directed by English teacher Laura Manziano — who is making a big splash in her directorial debut with co-director Justin Cimino, an SHS graduate and professional actor —“Mary Poppins” takes high school musicals to a new level with a fashion industry professional directing costumes and the technical expertise of Flying by Foy, the company that has provided flying technology for Broadway shows such as “Peter Pan,” “The Lion King” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

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More than 100 students are participating in the show as actors, set designers, tech crew and musicians.

“One of the things that I love about Ms. Manziano as a director is how she brings an element of fun to the show, which reminds us of why we are in the production in the first place — to have fun,” says Hayden Verbanas, a freshman who plays “Robertson Ay.” “She took a huge group of kids and brought us all together for a great community show.”

Janet Jacobson, who has worked for decades in New York’s fashion world, started mining thrift shops since last summer and designing costumes with an array of color that add a special vibrancy to the stage. She worked closely with set designer Teresa Michalski and set constructor Jeff Carlson to ensure that the costumes complement what is on stage.

The students say the Edwardian costumes make them feel as though they were transported back to 1910 and help them bring their characters to life.

“The costumes are much bigger and heavier than what we wear today,” says Emily Schworn, a freshman who plays “Fanny.” “They are more conservative than today’s clothes and they help me get into character because they help me know how to react and keep my posture.”

Choreographer Nicole Frangione-Zivkovic has been working for weeks to perfect complex dance scenes with upwards of 40 actors on stage at one time – a feat considering the somewhat stiff costumes that “Mary Poppins” dictates. “I watched the students move as I was designing the costumes,” says Jacobson. “They had to have the ‘look,’ but still be comfortable enough to dance in.”

And then there’s the flying, which the students got to try out this past week.

“It is a lot of fun and I felt very safe,” says Lindsey Kazar, a junior who plays “Miss Andrew” and one of three who will be soaring above the stage. Sophomore Liam Devlin, who gets to fly alongside Maura Elwood as “Mary Poppins” in his role as “Bert,” says it’s a great experience. “It will really wow the crowd, and I’m sure the audience will have as much fun as I am having,” he says.

As a professional actor with off-Broadway credits, co-director Cimino worked with the students to perfect their craft. “Justin is a great director,” says Devlin. “He really took us to levels far past anywhere we could have gone last year.”

Beyond the flying and dancing, “Mary Poppins” is all about the music. (Get ready for “atrocious” earworms like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”)

This week, the students in the pit orchestra, led by Matt Krempasky, came together with the actors and tech crew to hone the details. “It’s an exciting time — to see it all come together with the music,” says Karen Gorzynski, who has served as muscial director at the high school for 30 years.

"Mrs. Gorzynski worked with us tirelessly to perfect the songs sung by our characters,” says freshman Robyn Wasserman who plays “Michael.”

The Drama Club offers a special event this year: An opportunity for children 10 and under to meet “Mary” and “Bert” and enjoy a sweet treat at noon March 5. The event is free with Saturday matinee ticket purchase.

Tickets are available at the door or online at shsdrama.ticketleap.com/marypoppins.

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