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West Valley City Journal

Mary Poppins gives a spoonful of sugar and high-flying fun

Jun 11, 2018 02:59PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Josie Shumway as Mary Poppins flies a kite in preparation for the upcoming show. (Kevin Conde/West Valley City Photographer)

By Keyra Kristoffersen | [email protected] 

The Utah Cultural Celebration Center is hosting a summer production of “Mary Poppins” in their outdoor amphitheater June 14 through the 22. 

“There will be magical surprises in the show,” said Producer Margene Conde. “It's Mary Poppins as you've never seen it.”

Conde, working as both producer and assistant choreographer, as well as securing costumes with Courtney Nakashima, is known for her high energy shows with director Jim Smith — such as the 2017 production of “West Side Story.” The two have been working together for more than two decades to bring musical theater to the Salt Lake valley. They are joined again this year by choreographer Kenichi Nakashima, who is also currently in “Newsies” at Hale Center Theatre. 

“He's doing great,” said Conde. “I love to see my kids fly.” 

And fly they do in this show as a professional company called Flying by Foy has been contracted to set the rigging in the amphitheater to get Mary, played by Josie Shumway, and Bert, played by Benjamin Plowman, into the air. Conde has used professional theater flying companies before for productions of “Peter Pan” and Shumway has played Mary Poppins previously so the cast and crew are really excited to show off the magic they’ve put together over the previous 10 weeks. 

Conde was excited by the casting of Shumway and said from the moment Shumway began to audition, Conde just knew. “She is Mary. She’s magical,” said Conde. 

The rest of the ensemble cast has also been a pleasure to watch work together, said Conde. Along with Shumway and Plowman, Alina Woodbury joins the cast as Mrs. Banks and Benjamin Cecala as Mr. Banks as well as the vocal director. The role of Michael Banks went to Brooks Walker and Gavin DeMoux and Jane Banks is being played by Chloe Warnas and Olivia Sundwall.  

“We had such good children's auditions and because we have an eight-night run and they were equally talented, we worked out the schedule,” said Conde. “They’re the best of friends and having so much fun.” 

The cast is made up of around 35 to 40 actors so there are enough chimney sweeps to step in time with the live orchestra put together by Nancy Shino, an orchestra manager who arranges for conductors, guitarists and other musicians for community theaters all over the Salt Lake valley. She’s also worked with Conde for many years. 

“There's lots of singing, lots of tap dancing,” said Conde. “The magic and energy of the cast is delightful. It's perfect for summer theater.” 

“Mary Poppins” didn’t become available for community theater until last year and Conde wanted to do something a bit more upbeat than “West Side Story.” 

“We did a more family-oriented show because we thought that would be a good contrast to last year's production,” said Conde. “Mary Poppins has a good moral value, family value as well, but they're so delightfully different.” 

Conde and the cast are grateful for the support of West Valley City, the city council and the Utah Cultural Celebration Board and believe that this production is a chance to visit one’s childhood again and the magic of Mary Poppins experienced by so many. 

“I think everybody remembers Mary Poppins as a child,” said Conde. “We want families to enjoy and have the opportunity to attend the theater.” 

The show runs from June 14-22 at 8 p.m. at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center. Tickets are $5.