A high school baton twirler will be transformed into a magical flying nanny when "Mary Poppins" hits the Zachary High School stage.
Senior Miranda Albarez admits the cast was stretched to new heights, but calmly adds, “Anything can happen if you let it.”
Just as Mary Poppins foretells, anything is possible when singers become dancers, actors become singers and a few characters do all of those tasks while flying. Yes, flying.
The Zachary High Drama Department hired ZFX Flying out of Louisville, Kentucky, to bring both the equipment and expertise to lift the "Mary Poppins" cast to new heights. Flight director Shad Ramsey said his company has been around for about 20 years doing a little bit of everything including, television, concerts, movies and stage productions.
Ramsey travels from 200 to 290 days each year so he becomes attached to young flyers all over the country. “I have no actual children, they are all my kids,” he said.
“We come in, hook everybody up and teach them how to fly,” Ramsey said. “Everyone pays perfect attention to what I say and it all goes very smoothly.”
Each wire can hold 2,000 pounds, but the biggest learning leap was adjusting all the things Mary Poppins holds — bag, kite, umbrella — while flying. Albarez is not new to juggling difficult tasks. She is the school marching band’s twirler.
“As a baton twirler, it’s all about big facials and big movement because you are so far away from your audience,” she said. “It’s really about knowing your space.”
Performing at pep rallies in the gym has taught Albarez how to work an audience and get a feel for what they like. “Twirling has helped me physically prepare for the stage. I’ve learned a lot from just doing that,” she said.
Mary Poppins is nanny to Jan and Michael, the Banks children, and the freshmen actors playing those roles will also do some flying in the production.
Anna Dupre, in the role of Jan, saw only adventure in learning to fly. “It’s so fun,” she said. “When you’re dreaming about flying and thinking ‘hey, this is so cool’ and then you get to wake up and actually come here and do it.”
Tucker Wall, in role of Michael, sees a little more. “It was like really awesome like a Disney ride,” he said, “but it made me feel really anxious.”
Kavan Monte, in another flying lead role, portrays Mary Poppins' friend Bert. Monte earned the flight director’s ire for a quickly-developed bad habit. “It’s a natural instinct to put your hands on the wires cause you don’t want to fall,” he explained.
The surrounding cast quickly corrected “your natural instinct” and Ramsey threatened, in jest, to pass back through and cut off his hands.
Monte was a gymnast, so he was accustomed to being unattached in the air. The lead actors will bring a unique touch to the production. Monte will perform some gymnastic flips on the wires and Albarez will show off some of her twirling skills as Mary Poppins.
"Mary Poppins" was an ambitious production requiring lots of behind-the-scenes expertise in addition to ZFX Flying. Director Heather Feierabend was joined by musical director Anna Johnson, choreographer Jerisse Grantham and Zachary High alum Jeremy McDaniel who served as technical director.
"Mary Poppins" will run for six performances between Friday, Feb. 2, to Friday, Feb. 9, in the Visual and Performing Arts Center, 4100 Bronco Lane. Visit TicketLeap for tickets: zhsdrama.ticketleap.com.