Students prepare for the upcoming musical

By Jane Eskildsen, ’15

Beginning in the third week of February, the Vocal Music program will be performing the Broadway musical Mary Poppins. Students and coordinators are going above and beyond to bring this production to life. According to the lead cast members, senior Elise Rucker and sophomore Charlotte Brown, a local company will be harnessing the students in order to help them fly across the stage.

Prepared to play her role as Mrs. Winifred Banks, Rucker is most excited for the intricate set design.

“It’s inspired by the Broadway set, which involves lots of flying pieces and changes,” Rucker said. “It will be significantly different from the sets of recent years. I think the audience is really going to like it.”

IMG_3547Musical director Eric Kauffman says UAHS has a tradition of preparing the newest and most popular shows to keep the audience on its toes.

“The stage version of Mary Poppins was just released for amateur theater (high schools) to produce in October. Prior to this, only professional companies could produce the show,” Kauffman said.

This is Rucker’s fourth musical at the high school. She has also performed for Vocal Ensemble, Symphonic Choir, Women’s Glee, Chorus and Symphonic Band. As a freshman, Rucker was able to secure a spot in the UAHS musical, a challenging undertaking for a beginner.

“I was one of two freshmen girls to make it into the musical my ninth grade year,” Rucker said. “I remember feeling such a sense of accomplishment. Getting into the musicals at UAHS is no easy task.”

The typical audition process for a UAHS production begins with singing a song in the style of the show. Next, the student must act a short scene. Dancers must perform a dance to the different styles of the show. In the case of Mary Poppins, all students must perform a tap dance audition.

The major difference this year is that Mary Poppins is set in England, adding a new challenge for students: a British accent.

“The added feature to Mary Poppins of course is the addition of the British accent,” Kauffman said. “We offered free tap dance classes as well as free sessions on the British accent to help everyone prepare for this new skill set.”

Brown, knowing how difficult the auditions process was, prepared for weeks beforehand.

“I practiced pretty much every day,” Brown said. “I worked with my teacher on my voice. It was pretty stressful, but worth it.”

Brown said she was very lucky to be working with such a talented cast at such a comparatively young age.

This production will strive to bring life to what so many in UA know from the movie, Kauffman said. Many people are coming together to make this a great production.

“Several recent grads [have] come back and [helped] coach singers, actors and dancers with the skills they have acquired at their colleges, as well as [helped] out with sets and costumes over their winter break,” Kauffman said. “What a great community tradition we have here at UA concerning the musical theater program.”

Image 1 Caption: The Mary Poppins cast enjoys a rehearsal on stage. The cast must learn tap dancing and how to speak in a British accent.

Image by: Ellise Rucker

Image 2 Caption: Musical director Mr. Kauffman helps the Mary Poppins cast walk through the script of the show. Mary Poppins premieres the third week of February.

Image by: Megan Wheeler