Singing in the hallways, students from Norcross High School’s theatre program (NHS), take five. It’s the start of spring break, and although they’ve spent months rehearsing, the young thespians have hours of work remaining before their production of the Broadway musical “Mary Poppins” opens on April 25, 2019.
After the break, they gather around the piano where Doug Jordan, their musical director, slams tunes. “Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee,” they sing in chorus.
In both 2016 and 2017, Norcross High School’s drama program won the Region 7AAAAAAA One Act Play Competition. But for most of the students in the 33-character cast, this will be their first show.
They’ve come a long way according to the show’s director, Gina Parrish who in her 30 years of teaching has been inducted into the EdTA Hall of Fame, the Georgia Thespian Hall of Fame and the Norcross High School Foundation for Excellence Hall of Fame.
When asked if the kids sang before the show, Parrish answered, “Not at all. That’s why we rehearse.“
“We’re a very diverse cast, and we have a great group. Some are athletes; we have kids from orchestra and others from band. They do everything. They’re great kids!” Parrish said of the cast which features an elementary school student in the fourth grade who will play one of Mr. Bank’s children.
The students meet five times a week for rehearsal and to prepare for the play. Under the guidance of Parrish, who is famous for her elaborate sets, having won Best Set Design at the One Act Play competitions, they build their own sets and sew their own costumes. Their work is so extensive that one of the parents joked the students have revived the old woodshop class done away with in many schools.
Mary Poppins will be played by Marlo Mecredy, a senior, who plans to attend Mercer University in the fall to study Engineering while minoring in Theatre. For the play, she will be whisked on stage by a flying rig apparatus sponsored by the Drama Booster Club.
Of her role, Mecredy said, “I’m really excited. ‘Mary Poppins’ has a special place for me, so I’m just really excited to have this experience.”
Best Actor Award winner Calvin Bernardo, a junior, will play the role of the enchanting Bert, who will also fly across the stage for the show-stopping musical number “Step In Time”.
“I’ve worked with drama for a few years and played a main role in ‘Footloose’ when I played Rev. Shaw. I’ve never played anything to this degree, though, and we’re bringing a different side of the well-known play to light in this production,” Bernardo said.
There will be a few surprises in store for those familiar with the 1964 Disney film, according to Skylar Miller, a junior. She will play Mrs. Corry, a character who sells words at a talking shop where Mary Poppins appropriates the term, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, which was added to the dictionary due to the film’s popularity.
Another character unknown to many of the film’s fans is Ms. Andrews, who will be played by Cat Keeton, a Best Actress award winner.
“I’m very fond of [Ms. Andrews],” Keeton said of her character. “She’s the evil nanny that isn’t shown in the movie.”
While he has personally volunteered many hours with several of the school’s booster clubs, one parent volunteer, Jason Bernardo, considers this group in NHS’s drama program some of most hard-working youth he knows. Many of the students have found success in the program, as in the case of Marc Collins, a senior who accepted a full ride scholarship to Oglethorpe University’s Theatre program.
And for their teacher, Bernardo has the utmost respect.
“I cannot praise Gina enough for her dedication. She’s been doing this for 30 years, and she puts every effort into these productions,” said Bernardo who volunteers with the Drama Booster Club to promote and fundraise for the show.
He added, “Spring Musicals can be costly, and this show has its share of expenses which we hope to cover by selling ads in the program, through ticket sales and the concessions we will be selling during intermission.”
“We’ll give it our best shot, “Parrish said. “It was a gigantic undertaking, and every student put in so much effort. Most characters have four to five costumes which we had to make, and 50 percent have never been in a show before, so we spend a lot of time in rehearsal.”
The show will be held at Norcross High School’s theater from April 25, 26, 27 and May 4 at 7: p.m. and on two Sundays – April 28 and May 5th at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from $7 to $15.
Of her choice for their spring musical, Parrish said,” Every kid should see ‘Mary Poppins’ at some point. It’s a magical show. I teared up at some points during rehearsal, and I know the script. It’s truly a show for all ages, and we are surely proud to do a show everyone can enjoy.”