Performers in the Capitol Theatre’s annual summer youth production may be young (ages 12 to 18), but the direction, sets, lighting, and sound are of adult professional calibre. That’s what makes the project so unique: young people are supported on all sides by very high production standards.
That really motivates them, according to Adriana Bogaard, 29, who designed the sets for this year’s production of Mary Poppins.
The Nelson native, who is entering her final year of the set and costume design program at the National Theatre School in Montreal, performed in several Capitol summer productions in the 1990s.
“As soon as the set is installed,” she says, “the performers step up their performance level because they have a higher standard to live up to.”
For 27 years the Capitol’s summer youth production has been a training ground for young actors, singers, and dancers, many of whom return year after year.
Emma Chart as Mary Poppins, Quinn Barron as Bert ( Bill Metcalfe photo)
Emma Chart, 17, is playing Mary Poppins. She says the part isn’t as simple as one might think.
“Mary is very proper and so smiley. She is like the perfect person. But then when you try to play her, what is she thinking underneath all that? How is she always so smiley, and how does she always know what is coming next? You really have to think about her motives. There is a lot more stuff underneath that she has to figure out.”
This is Chart’s third Capitol youth production, having also appeared in Sweeney Todd and The Secret Garden in past summers. What has the experience meant for her?
“I’ve gained a lot of confidence,” she says. “It shows you what you can do. It is pretty amazing that a bunch of kids who don’t know each other can come together and do this.”
Emily Raynor as Jane Banks, Sophie Bell as Winifred Banks, Felix Barron as Michael Banks, and Emma Chart as Mary Poppins (Frankie Defeo photo)
Quinn Barron, 15, agrees. He plays Bert the chimney sweep, the other lead in the production.
“It gives a strong sense of community,” he says. He says he’s “ecstatic” to be playing Bert, and that in preparing for the role he has studied the work of Dick Van Dyke (who played Bert in the movie) and the actor who played Bert on Broadway. He says they are “both geniuses.”
“I feel the part fits my personality and I can pull it off if I work really hard at it. There is something about Bert that is very magical. He has a charisma that is difficult to nail, but when you get it, it feels so great.
“The challenge,” Barron says, “is that Bert is the narrator, so he has to break the fourth wall, so I am working on speaking directly to the audience.”
The dream team: Girvan, Burns, and Lightfoot
The heart of the professional team that has supported the performers for many years is the trio of director Geoff Burns, music director Allison Girvan, and choreographer Lynette Lightfoot.
Music director Allison Girvan, director Geoff Burns, and choreographer Lynette Lightfoot (Bill Metcalfe photo)
“This cast started working cohesively from Day one,” says Lightfoot. “It’s been wonderful. The personalities have jelled and their work ethic has been amazing.”
This is the 16th summer youth production Geoff Burns has directed. Why does he keep coming back?
“For the sheer joy of it,” he says. “It is so much fun working with young people, that age group who want to be here, and who love being here, and working with the Capitol Theatre. The people who work here and support the program are fantastic.”
Why Mary Poppins?
“Mary Poppins is one of my longtime family favourites,” says Burns. “The music is fabulous and so familiar, but also because we have a slightly younger cast this year we wanted to have something more family-oriented. And also because this is the first year the music was released for public consumption. It has been locked in on Broadway. So we grabbed it right away.”
Girvan, in her 18th year as musical director, says Burns is one of the reasons she keeps coming back to the summer production.
“He is just the best,” she says. “With Lynette, this trio of us have done quite a few shows and of course the kids are the number one thing, but it is the people you work with that makes the difference.”
Emma Chart as Mary Poppins, Emily Raynor as Jane Banks, and Felix Barron as Michael Banks. (Frankie Defeo photo)
The instrumental music for the production is created by a computerized program called OrchExtra, which allows Girvan todirect a computerized full orchestra at a keyboard, in real time from the back of the theatre. She can control the pacing of the music to make sure the music and dialogue are in sync. And she can change it to suit the singers’ voices.
“Quinn Barron, our fantastic Bert, is young enough that his lower notes are still a thing of the future,” Girvan says. “It was necessary that we transpose a lot of the music. He is the natural Bert. He is unbelievable at it. If it were not for this program I would have had to transpose all his songs myself or we would have had to find a different Bert, which was not an option given how fantastic his audition was.”
Mary Poppins runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available online at the Capitol Theatre box office, online at capitoltheatre.bc.ca or by phone at 250-352-6363.
Bill Metcalfe Photo