At just over 70 miles from Columbus, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Mary Poppins”can be considered as a day trip option for local families.
The musical, originally produced by Disney and Cameron Macintosh, features popular songs from the feature film including “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Jolly Holiday,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” It runs for four weeks this month.
Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the state’s theater, is the largest professional producing theater in Alabama. It is located in Montgomery and is one of the largest Shakespeare festivals in the world. In addition to a full season of other work, the company is committed to producing at least two Shakespeare plays a year. Productions take place in a $21.5 million complex that houses two theaters, numerous administration offices, production shops and several rehearsal halls.
The festival’s production of “Mary Poppins” will cost over $1 million and features flying characters, a large cast, set and costumes created on-site and a live orchestra for each performance.
In addition to being a large financial show, “Mary Poppins” also marks the end of an era at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. The show will be the last production for Geoffrey Sherman, Alabama Shakepeare’s producing artistic director for the last 12 years. Sherman will be replaced by ASF’s new artistic director, Rick Dildine, on Aug. 1.
This is not the first time that “Mary Poppins” has been produced by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Their production of the show in 2014 was so popular that it was extended to run for several extra performances. This year’s production has already been extended to run through July 30, and several weekend and matinee performances were sold out before the show opened.
Alabama Shakespeare Festival welcomes Alice Sherman back to star in the show as Mary Poppins. Sherman has played numerous roles at the festival including Mary in “Mary Poppins” in 2014, Miss Casewell in “The Mousetrap,” Cordelia in “King Lear” and Jordan Baker in “The Great Gatsby.” She also was featured in the movie “Good Will Hunting.” Sherman studied theater at Columbia University and completed her opera studies at Manhattan School of Music.
She is joined on the stage by Bret Shuford, who plays Bert. Shuford returns to the role of Bert at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival after starring opposite Sherman in their 2014 production. Shuford recently starred in Cirque de Soleil’s “Paramour” on Broadway. She has also appeared in the films “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Bedfellows” and “Uncle Melvin’s Apartment.”
The roles of Jane and Michael Banks are double cast with local children. Anna Colson and Olivia Laine Scott alternate the role of Jane Banks, while the role of Michael has been split three ways between Steven H. Gorden, Noah Henninger and Charlie Hill. All but one of the child actors are residents of Montgomery, Ala.
Those planning to attend should know planning a trip to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in advance is highly recommended. Call to reserve tickets early.
If you go
What: “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical”
When: July 5-30
Where: Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1 Festival Drive, Montgomery, Ala.
Cost: Tickets start at $40.
Call: asf.net or 1-800-841-4273
More information: “Mary Poppins” is recommended for ages 4 and up, and tickets start at $40. For more information, visit the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s website.