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Windermere Observer Friday, Aug. 9, 2019 2 weeks ago

‘Mary Poppins’ soars to stage at St. Luke’s

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St. Luke's United Methodist Church will be presenting “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical” from Aug. 9 to 25.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

It’s not everyday that you get to see Mary Poppins fly through a church, but for the month of August, you’ll have more than one opportunity to see just that at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

The latest production to hit the stage at St. Luke’s is “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical,” which is the church’s annual summer musical. The show opens at 7 p.m. August 9 and runs to August 25. Showtimes vary and tickets cost $15 to $30 depending on seating. For more information on showtimes and to order tickets, visit st.lukes.org/marypoppins.

This classic musical hit tells the story of the Banks family who live in a large home in London along Cherry Lane. The Banks children, Jane and Michael, are out of control and are in need of a new nanny. The children and parents share different ideas of whom the ideal nanny should be, but when a mysterious young woman named Mary Poppins shows up at their home, the family finds that she’s a peculiar answer to all their prayers. Mary Poppins not only has a profound effect on the Banks children with the adventures she takes them on; she even teaches the grown-ups in the story a thing or two.

“‘Mary Poppins’ has always been my absolute favorite story since I was a little boy,” Director Steve MacKinnon said. “It’s got such a powerful message of transformation and family and forgiveness. It speaks to our core values at St. Luke’s and also to our community.”

For MacKinnon, this latest production holds a special place in his heart. The film was an important part of his childhood, and he loved it so much that he even gathered his cousins and a few friends and directed his own production of “Mary Poppins” when he was just a boy. It was the first show he ever directed.

“I was an only child to a single mom, and I used to watch the movie, the VHS, all the time — I would wear it out,” MacKinnon said. “She was kind of my own babysitter. … I sort of grew up with it. When I (was) about 10 years old, I directed my first show, which happened to be ‘Mary Poppins,’ with my cousins and my friends in the neighborhood, and we did it in my neighbor's basement.”

Years later, MacKinnon’s life would come full circle as he got together with a team of nearly 100 cast, crew and other team members to put together a full stage production of “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical.” 

“She (Mary Poppins) has been in my life — my directing career and even my personal life — for my whole life,” MacKinnon said. “I’ve kind of come full circle now and have the privilege of getting to create more of a professional community experience and introduce her to a wider audience of people. I feel very excited — personally — to be able to share that experience.” 

Shannon Starkey stars as Mary Poppins in St. Luke’s United Methodist Church’s production of “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical.”

This year’s summer musical is running for three weeks, which is the first time St. Luke’s has ran a summer production for that long. It’s also the church's first production that has actors flying around the stage. One of those high-flying performers will be Winter Garden resident and Walt Disney World cast member Shannon Starkey, who will be playing Mary Poppins herself.

“This is my first time doing ‘Mary Poppins,’ so I’m really, really excited,” Starkey said. “I grew up watching ‘Mary Poppins,’ so I definitely have always dreamed of playing this role.”

Although Starkey has been for practically her entire life, the role of ‘Mary Poppins’ is still a big one to take on that didn’t come without its hardships. As the lead role, Starkey will be on stage for pretty much the whole show.

“It’s a very challenging role,” Starkey said. “Mary doesn’t really leave the stage very often. She’s not (onstage) about the first five minutes of act one and then also the first 10 minutes of act two, but other than that, she’s onstage the whole time. The process of learning all the choreography — we’re doing a lot of the Broadway choreography — that’s been a huge challenge and (so has) learning the track of the role.”

In spite of the challenges, Starkey looks forward to bringing the magic of “Mary Poppins” to the stage at St. Luke’s.

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and the West Orange Observer. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a double major in Journalism and Political Science. Contact Eric at...

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