Mary Poppins, the musical, lands in Ely

Theater review by Charles D. Novak
BOTH IN SONG AND WITH WORDS, senior Morgan Moravitz wowed the audience at Washington Auditorium while playing the lead role in  “Mary Poppins,” the high school fall musical. Moravitz is pictured on stage with Elijah Olson. Photo by Hailey Worth.

I attended the opening night performance on Saturday, November 12 and can describe this theatrical experience in one word – WOW! I had to pinch myself, thinking I was on Broadway. What a show! What a performance! What a cast performed by the talented students of Ely Memorial High School.
Mary Poppins had its start in the West End Theater District in London. The show opened on Broadway on November 16, 2006 where it ran for 2,619 performances. It was nominated for seven Tony Awards. The show closed in New York on March 13, 2013 making a huge profit for its investors.
The Ely production boasted a cast of 27 members all “practically perfect in their own delightful way!”
The plot is simple – a nanny is hired to take care of two feisty children. The show began on a high note sung by Elijah Olson who played the part of Bert. The theater darkened and there he was, on this side of the stage in a single spotlight ready to share his impressive singing voice with us.
We were then introduced to the Banks family. The father was played by Blaise Lah, another strong voice who did some impressive dramatic acting in act two.
The mother was played by Cate Deremee and daughter Jane by Cora Olson. Both will have theatrical booking agents in their future if they continue to develop their singing abilities.
The young son, Michael played by Blake Walsh started to steal scenes in act two as his confidence grew in the part of the young unruly adolescent. He almost stopped the show twice!
The character of Mrs. Brill was sung by local favorite Anna Urbas. All this talent was on display before Mary Poppins even made her entrance!
And in she came – not quite flying. That would come later in the show. Morgan Moravitz as Mary Poppins takes over as nanny and immediately begins to mend this somewhat broken family. By the end of the musical she succeeds beyond her wildest dreams to the delight of the audience. She received a roaring ovation as she opened her umbrella and started ascending to the ceiling of Washington Auditorium. It was magic!
Special mention has to be made for Jasiah Wigdahl ridiculously dressed in a Roman Toga who prances and cartwheels all over the stage. The audience went wild!
The song and dance number which brought down the house was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! (not a misprint) The audience applause demanded they repeat the last few minutes of the number. Just when you thought the dancing couldn’t get any better “Step In Time” explodes in act two. Four of the male dancers in this number were Ely Timberwolves football players! As they say in the game, they had the moves!
All this great choreography came from the creative mind of Molly Olson. What also made this production unique was the prerecorded music coming from the orchestra pit. It sounded like 46 Broadway musicians had flown in for the show. The cast members did their own singing with support from this invisible orchestra.
I wish I could have biographed and spoken to everyone involved in this show. Special mention must be given to the two people who made this happen - James Lah the musical director and Sarah Mason the music director.
An Ely Tony Award to all! Here are the names of the rest of the wonderful cast who helped make this such a memorable night in the Washington Auditorium: Haley Heiner, Nils Deremee, Shayla Zaverl, Logan Mann, Caroline Homer, Henry Dirks, Ethan Hasz, Grace Erickson, Taryn Osthoff, Erin Bianco, Emma Larson, Cameron Kienitz, Jon Harkala, Amelia Pluth, Sidney Marshall, Erica Mattson and Tesla Humphrey, a believable chimney sweep! Costumes were by Ruth Lah, sets and lighting by Peter Kess and the pianist was Bonnie Starkman.
Mary Poppins in Ely will go down as one of the most enjoyable evenings of theater I have experienced. They could have easily done a third performance and sold out through word of mouth. If you didn’t see this production and are asking yourself “why didn’t we get tickets to see this show?” There is good news! More shows are coming! Break a leg!