OLDS — Members of the École Olds High School (ÉOHS) Drama Club are pumped.
They’re getting a chance to perform in front of a live audience again after having to perform in an empty theatre last year due to COVID restrictions.
This year, they’re presenting Disney and Cameron MacIntosh’s Mary Poppins at the TransCanada Theatre.
Evening performances will be held Dec. 3, 4, 10 and 11 at 7 p.m. Matinee performances will be staged Dec. 5 and 12 at 2 p.m.
There will be some COVID restrictions this year as well, though.
The theatre has 400 seats, but only 130 will be available per performance.
Tickets can be obtained at the high school office by calling 403-556-3391. If any are unsold, they’ll be available at the door.
The Albertan spoke to a couple of cast members, both of whom are in Grade 12.
Ella Challoner plays Mary Poppins and Candice Brandson, former fire chief Leonard Brandson’s granddaughter, plays Michael Banks.
Challoner says playing Mary Poppins is challenging.
"In one of her songs is saying that she’s practically perfect, so you kind of have to think of every single movement that you’re making, because you just want to look practically perfect – the entire show. So you cannot falter or forget anything,” she said during an interview.
“I don’t know why that has to be such a hard thing, but it is.”
She said the songs can be hard to sing as well.
“There are some parts that are really high,” she said. “But I feel like I’ve been classically-trained so it’s kind of like going back to my roots, so I feel very comfortable with singing in the role.”
Challoner was asked if she sought out the role of Mary Poppins.
“Not really. I mean, kind of,” she said. “Like, I wanted to be in the show. I didn’t really know who I was going to be, but it was the first thing I auditioned for.”
Brandson has her own challenges playing Michael Banks, but she’s found a way.
“I’m really short so it works. And little boys sing really high too,” she said.
"Being British and being a little boy is definitely the biggest challenge, I’d say. Because he’s really naive and he’s young. He’s kind of like, a brat. I have to try and be that.
“Being a brat, it's like a fun thing to do, but it’s also hard to do because like, it’s -- it’s being a little boy. It’s just hard to be a little boy,” she said with a laugh.
To bring authenticity to the role, Brandson is making use of the fact she has a younger brother.
“I’m channelling my younger brother in a way,” she said. “It’s just a really fun role. I get to be out of my comfort zone.”
Both Challoner and Brandson plan to continue in fine arts in post-secondary education.
Challoner would like to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts or Performing Arts.
Brandson would like to be a music teacher.
She not only sings but also plays the flute.
“I’d like to teach kids how to read music, how to play music, maybe be a part of a musical just like this. I’d like to do that some day,” she said.
ÉOHS Drama teacher Rhonda West said she decided to stage Mary Poppins this year because it calls for a big cast and she had a lot of kids eager to perform.
“Right now we have 23 in the cast and we have about 10 people who are backstage,” she said.
That’s a similar figure to a couple of years ago when the club staged The Little Mermaid.
West is very impressed with how the cast have been able to memorize their lines this year because, due to COVID restrictions, they didn’t get a chance to audition until September. In normal years, they’ve been able to audition, then memorize their lines during the summer.
"These kids have managed to pull off absolutely an amazing feat in the three months that they’ve had,” she said.
“They haven’t had their script all summer where they could be learning it. They’ve been learning it as we’ve been going, so they’ve done an exceptional job this year.”
West is just grateful the club is able to perform before a live audience this year instead of an empty theatre like last year when they could only film and stream You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.
“That’s been a blessing, that we’re finally getting our people back on stage, they’re very excited about it. And (they’re) going to be able to have a live audience in front of them – the two things that any performing artist really, really needs,” West said.
"When you’re a performing artist and you don’t have an audience, you’re not getting any of the feedback or the energy. So it’s hard to kind of rise to the occasion when you have dead silence in front of you.”