How To Make Mary Poppins Fly
One of Mary Poppins’s mysterious and fascinating qualities is her ability to fly using her parrot-handled umbrella. There are many theatrical ways to achieve this that do not require hiring flying specialists, rigging wires, or breaking the budget. Remember, flying can be symbolic; there’s no need to be literal. Let’s explore!
“There are an endless number of ways to portray flying onstage, many of which have been around for hundreds of years.”
Imaginative Approaches to Flying
There are an endless number of ways to portray flying onstage, many of which have been around for hundreds of years. The Victorians used a see-saw, placing an actor on one end and then lowering the other side, creating the illusion of an actor rising magically. Mary could very simply stand on a rehearsal block to indicate flying. Or her silhouette could be cut from foam core and raised in the air to achieve the same effect. And there are myriad ways to portray flight with creative choreography. Every license of Mary Poppins JR. includes a ShowKit® of materials designed as a “Show-in-a-Box” – perfect for first time directors. ShowKit® contents include a Director’s Guide with staging tips and rehearsal strategies, a Choreography DVD – with select numbers fully staged. Below are specific DIY approaches to “flying” Mary Poppins.
Staging the Effects, or “Selling It”
The greatest effects are only as stirring as your actors’ use of them to tell the story. If your actors are comfortable and confident enough with the effects to make them look easy, natural, and in control, the audience will buy the trick every time. Allow plenty of rehearsal time for any magical moments in your show so that your actors can finesse any intricate moments and are able to perform them perfectly every time.
“Use your actors to create the sky – build handheld clouds on sticks and use creative blocking.”
“Chim Chim Cher-ee”
In Scene 9, during the song “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” Mary Poppins “exits into the sky.” A fun way to achieve this is by using your actors to create the sky. Build handheld clouds on sticks for five actors. Stage them to enter using movement evocative of scudding clouds, and have them surround Mary Poppins, concealing her from the audience with their cut-out clouds. In the meantime, Mary Poppins can exit (unseen by the audience). The clouds open up to reveal that Mary Poppins is gone.
“Let’s Go Fly a Kite”
This number is featured on the Choreography DVD in its entirety, so be sure to check it out to see how you can stage your ensemble to help create the magic. Using the Kite Flyers to manipulate the various kites onstage, you can make Mary Poppins appear from the sky by choreographing her to be revealed from behind a cluster of kites. See Choreography DVD excerpt, above.
“Mary could regally ascend up a staircase, rehearsal blocks, or various platforms so she can hit her iconic pose at the perfect moment in the music.”
“Anything Can Happen (Finale)”
Many of the tricks used in “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” can be altered and used in Mary’s final departure. Mary could regally ascend up a staircase, rehearsal blocks, or various platforms so she can hit her iconic pose at the perfect moment in the music, significantly higher than any other actor on stage. Staging her alone on an upstage center platform would be effective. Remember to always employ the use of spotters any time an actor ascends levels onstage. Your ensemble can not only hide the set pieces Mary is stepping upon, but provide an additional level of safety for Mary. If you have any additional tricks or theatrical enhancements – like special lighting, atmospheric effects (like stage haze), or handheld practicals (like twinkly lights or small beam flashlights) – this is the moment to use them. With help from your entire company, Mary’s final flight will be the most magical trick of all.
To be clear, under no circumstances should you or anyone in your organization try to theatrically fly an actor without a licensed professional on hand who is an expert in theatrical flying. Remember, if you’re stuck, ask your actors for ideas! You will be surprised at their clever and innovative suggestions! Using a little theatrical thinking and a lot of creativity, making Mary Poppins fly is simple, fun, and engaging for your entire cast.
For more information about Mary Poppins Jr. visit the show page.