Sit Down with Cast of Mary Poppins, Jr.

Sit Down with Cast of Mary Poppins, Jr.
Posted on 11/15/2018
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Get to know four main cast members from the memorable presentation of Mary Poppins, Jr. at Oaklawn Visual & Performing Arts Magnet (OVPA) to capture for yourself a small glimpse of the “magic” behind each annual student production: Meet Anani Coleman (Mary Poppins), LaRon Samuels (Bert), Valerie Sutton (Jane Banks), and Ryan Tedford (Michael Banks). All four are fourth grade students, and represent well the connection that all participants develop with staff, other students, and the school theme during weeks of preparation and rehearsal for the annual event. Learn more about the preparation for the production, here.


Anani, LaRon, Valerie, and Ryan have all participated in supporting roles in previous OVPA productions. In a small room next to the library, all four sat down giggling together to describe how they feel about Mary Poppins, Jr. and the production experience in general.


Regarding Roles:  Three of the four claim to be playing the very role for which they would have chosen for themselves in Mary Poppins, Jr. Ryan disagrees.“I wanted to be Bert!” he says, and aims the comment toward LaRon, who is actually playing Bert. He points out quickly though, “My personality really does connect with Michael’s character because of the cheekiness of his lines.” Anani says, “Ryan really does it well because he’s just being him in his part. Literally, he doesn’t even have to get in another character.”


For Anani as Mary Poppins, the group concedes that she fits the role well because of her natural instincts to take care of everyone around her. “She’s just bossy, but she has good manners about it,” observes LaRon. “Mary Poppins is stern, but not completely stern. She does it to get things in order,” Anani comments with a smile.


Important Life Lessons from Mary Poppins, Jr.: “A big point of the show is to tell kids that even if your mom or dad is not around, you can still enjoy life. Anything can happen for yourself if you’ll work for it,” says Valerie. Anani adds, “Anything can happen if you let it. Mary Poppins takes them on adventures that help them to deal with hard things like their parents not being around very often.”


“You can’t judge that nanny [Mary Poppins] by who you think she is at first,” chimes in Ryan. “She surprises the audience. The kids think she is boring at first, but it’s because they’re not seeing everything yet.


“The show is about taking care of each other,” LaRon  notes and laughs. “Even though they all fight a lot, they take care of each other.”

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Favorite Parts from the Cast:


LaRon: “The ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ part is my favorite … because the song is funny, because it doesn’t really make sense and it’s not supposed to.” Valerie giggles and agrees, “The words are all made up! It’s so funny!”


Valerie: “I love ‘Jolly Holiday’ because it’s about Michael and Jane being pulled out of their stubborness. They open their eyes to something new, and I love that. We [Michael and Jane] are determined to not have fun, and we have to in that moment.” Ryan adds, “You should see the costumes in that part!”


Ryan and Anani: “My favorite part is ‘Stepin’ Time’ because it’s kind of like looking into a secret world,” says Ryan. Anani agrees saying, “It’s one of my [Mary Poppins’] powers to shoot us up a chimney. We all jump and then appear in some upstairs magical world. And then we connect with other chimney sweeps. It’s magical.”


Importance of Participating: The group agrees, annual productions build confidence in students. “It’s important to build self confidence in front of a large audience. You might not get this opportunity anywhere else, I mean to be in front of so many people,” says Ryan. “I used to stutter, and when I was in ‘Aladdin’ that changed. A kid’s self confidence is just so much bigger with this experience.”  Valerie points out, “Before I did this, I couldn’t speak to a mouse. I was so nervous. These plays grew my speaking skills. I’m way louder than I was last year!”


The experience broadens horizons. “It means a lot because everyone can get this experience and one day, they could go to Broadway,” says LaRon. “It opens that possibility, and that dream. A lot of kids wouldn’t even know what Broadway or shows were, without it.”


The inclusiveness of all ages and talents builds a bond between the students. Valerie says, “Even if you’re a background singer, you can still build self confidence because you’re still in front of an audience of people and you’re all together. As you get older, then you’re not as afraid when you talk to people and get in front of crowds.” Anani says, “In this play, everyone comes together to make something fantastic.”


Anani remembers, “When I was in pre-k, I got to be here with my brother who was in the Oaklawn production when he was here. I wouldn’t have grown up the same way without these plays. You know, I can grow in personality and other stuff, but this experience is different. Getting to meet new people that I haven’t known before … I just feel like this builds a new family for us all.” Ryan adds, “Yeah! Same! This show makes friends across grade levels, too.”


Who Would Students Cast Themselves As?

When prompted for the one character that each main cast member would choose for themselves, each chose:

Valerie - Rose in Titanic

Ryan – Fred Weasley in Harry Potter
Anani – Neytiri in Avatar

LaRon - Jonas Taylor in The Meg


Advice to Students Hoping for Future Main Cast Roles:


Valerie:  “Even if you’re scared, don’t be. Remember when you’re auditioning, even if you don’t get the part you want, you’ll get to be in the play!


LaRon: “If someone is nervous you can just tell them don’t be nervous. It’s ok. Don’t be afraid. Anything can happen!”


Ryan: “It doesn't matter what part you get. Try as hard as you can.” He adds with a smirk, “They can also try ‘4-7-8 Breathing’ … it works for me.”

Anani: “You have to get ready to work real hard. Mrs. Clayton and Mr. Hogue are so fantastic but they work us hard because they don’t want us to embarrass themselves. If anyone is being hard on you, it’s because they love you.”


From the Cast to OVPA Staff and Supporters

LaRon: “Thanks for making us just great.”


Anani: “Thank you for pushing us, and working us over our limits.”


Valerie: “Thank you for being fantastic.”


Ryan: “I appreciate them pushing us to our limits. It brings out our potential.”


In a concluding group hug, the four close the discussion with laughter and anticipation for the show. “This has been such a great experience,” says Anani. “You learn things about each other that you never knew.” LaRon reminds the group, “I’m bringing Mr. Hogue a peanut butter chocolate milkshake!.” Ryan smiles and says “After a while, we turn into one huge family.” Valerie smiles back, “Are you sure we’re not related now?”