‘Mary Poppins’ to land at Arts Festival finale

If the judges really want to blow a spelling bee contestant’s mind, have them spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

It could be the difference between sounding quite precocious and quite atrocious.

It’s more fun to say and sing along to. You can do that when “Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘Mary Poppins’ ” flies in as the 50th Summer Arts Festival’s finale at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 14, Friday, July 15 and Saturday, July 16 at the Turner Pavilion in Veterans Park.

This community theater musical is produced by the Springfield Arts Council in partnership with Springfield Civic Theatre and admission is free.

Spoonfuls of sugar will not be available at the concession stands.

If you’ve seen the classic film version of “Mary Poppins” about the magical nanny that earned Julie Andrews a Best Actress Oscar, then this production will combine what you like about it with new songs and characters.

Director Chris Harmon hadn’t directed a Summer Arts Festival show in 10 years but was encouraged to return for this assignment.

“It’s great fun for the entire family and nostalgic for adults,” said Harmon, who directed six shows in the Dayton area just this season. “It’s very entertaining with good messages and morals.”

He previously directed “Anything Goes” in 2007 here, and found this production a bigger challenge with a 37-member cast, lots of scenery changes and some of the actors being required to “fly.”

Rachel Jensen, who plays Mary Poppins, acted in her first Summer Arts Festival show at age 9, performing for Harmon in “Anything Goes” and lastly as Cinderella in the 2008 production of “Into the Woods.”

“I took a break and am ready to get back into it,” Jensen said.

Harmon also acted in 1990s productions including “The Secret Garden” and “State Fair” and is glad to be back.

“Some of these people I’ve known for 20 years and some are new,” he said. “I like this community. People in Dayton don’t realize how strong the arts presence is in this community.”

The first movie Springfield native Marilyn Knize ever saw in the cinema was “Mary Poppins” at the State Theater when it was new in 1964.

That experience led to a lifelong love of movies and theater. Now 52 years later she’s in a production based on the film as housekeeper Mrs. Brill.

“It was always been one of my favorites. I love Julie Andrews,” Knize said, smiling. “My parents bought the album, and I memorized it.”

She thinks the audience will enjoy the changes and surprises from the film version and the vocal quality.

This is Knize’s second Summer Arts Festival production, following last year’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” and she hopes to continue.

“This is a great thing Springfield has. It’s a great big effort to celebrate the 50th anniversary.”

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Contact this contributing writer at bturner004@woh.rr.com.