Opera singer Vanessa Rodriguez directs students in 'Mary Poppins'
The cast and crew of Mary Poppins, a musical performed by home schooled students through DeArmon Creative Arts School and Theater (CAST), are feeling more than a spoonful of joy over their run, which concludes this weekend.
The show features mostly high school students, but a few middle schoolers play roles as well. DeArmon CAST is a nonprofit organization that provides creative arts education in a Christian environment for home schooled kids. It’s founder, Sharon DeArmon, is directing Mary Poppins.
“It’s been excellent, fantastic,” said music director Vanessa Rodriguez, who is directing the singers. “It’s a really great, magical show.”
Local audiences might have seen Rodriguez, 36, as Despina in Opera Tampa’s recent production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte. Mary Poppins was first a series of children’s books, then a 1964 movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Julian Fellowes, the Downton Abbey creator, wrote the script for the stage musical, which debuted in London’s West End Theatre in 2004 and on Broadway in 2006. The stage version contains elements that were not in the film. Some of the songs are trickier than others, Rodriguez said.
“The way it is written requires a singer to have some type of classical training,” she said. Rodriguez worked with singers to impart a breathing technique to produce a “tone quality that is relaxed and open, as opposed to more of a Broadway, belting sound.”
The leads are double cast, with Anna Bain and Payton Ann Strawser alternating as Mary Poppins and Alex Ezra and Luke Stick as Bert.
The show starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the University Area Community Center, 14013 N 22nd St., Tampa. $10-$15. A “pay what you can” performance starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday. dearmoncast.com.