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A flying nanny? : Harlingen students soar in ‘Mary Poppins’ production

October 29, 2018

HARLINGEN — The Banks family desperately needs a nanny.

Miss Andrew was mean and nasty and terrified the children before ultimately walking out on them.

What to do? Bring back Mary Poppins!

“ I really love it,” said Mary Kate Holder, 17, who plays the lead role in the Harlingen school district’s production of “Mary Poppins.”

Mary is one of about 150 elementary, middle school and high school students taking part in the performance, which opens Nov. 1.

The show, set in 1910 London, reveals how Mary Poppins, a flying nanny, goes to work for the Banks family. She takes the children, Jane and Michael, on trips she calls “games” to grab the children’s attention. The trips teach the children basic moral values in a way that’s fun for them and for the audience.

“ The moral of the story is that the family is more important than anything else,” Lead Director Meagan Conley said.

“ The Banks family is in need of a nanny,” Conley said. “The kids write up a letter of the perfect nanny that they want, and in flies Mary Poppins to this family in need.”

The show reveals a gradual transformation in the family.

“ These are very bratty children and a very stern self-absorbed father, at the very beginning of the show,” Conley said. “At the end of the show they are changed through the lessons that Mary Poppins has come along to teach them.”

Lee Ann Ince, coordinator of fine arts for the Harlingen school district, said new and refreshing elements are being introduced into the production. Those elements include a live orchestra in the pit and the use of special equipment to give the illusion that people are flying.

ZFX Flying Effect, which uses ropes, wires and harnesses to enable the actors to fly, has been in the Valley working with the kids.

“ We use two systems, one for Mary Poppins and Miss Andrew, and the other for Bert,” said Markeith Scott, flying director for ZFX, which is based in Louisville, Kentucky.

“ We have what’s called a flying 101 class,” Scott said. “We make sure the cast and crew are confident with flying.”

Everyone seems excited about flying.

“ I fly upside down; it’s a thrill,” said John Duncan, 18, who plays Bert, an artist who paints on sidewalks.

“ I wear what’s called a somersault harness,” John said. “The flying gives the advantage of seeing the rest of them.”

He’s equally enjoying his character.

“ Bert is such a fun role,” John said. “He’s always very big and passionate. Maintaining that energy is challenging.”

The kids have enjoyed playing the Banks children.

Mary Poppins quickly goes about the business of teaching the children, who definitely have some things to work on. Bianca Rios, 9, was having fun playing Jane Banks.

“ At first she’s the brattiest kid,” Bianca said.

“ When Mary Poppins comes she has games but they are also lessons,” Bianca said. “Jane Banks, she changes from being a brat because Mary Poppins is teaching her lessons.”

Those games include a trip to the bank where the children learn about money, or a trip to see a woman feeding birds to teach them about generosity.

“ She just turns them from these bratty individuals to these caring individuals,” Ince said.

Caleb Garcia, 12, has also enjoyed playing a bratty Michael Banks.

“ He’s the kind of kid that nobody would want,” said Caleb. “He’s bratty, he yells at adults, he’s a horrible kid. I’m a really respectful and responsible kid so it’s kind of nice to be a brat for a change.”

So how did those kids become so “bratty”? Perhaps the mean nanny helped push them that way. And Mary Poppins flies in and shows how goodness can make a profound difference.

twhitehead@valleystar.com