Off the Record: A supercali-etc. time

I have often said that being in a play on stage is the most fun you can have without getting arrested. The cast of the State Street Theater Co. production of “Mary Poppins” last weekend proved that right. I think they were having such a good time that they came very close to getting raided, but I have seen nothing in the police reports about people having too good a time at the theater over the weekend.

I have been in a few shows here and in Albert Lea, and I can honestly say that this production, top to bottom, is one of the strongest I have seen. The singing and acting were great, especially among the leads, but what put this one over the top was the large and extremely talented chorus. They sang, and especially danced, with great skill and energy. Gary Sassenberg, the choreographer, challenged the dancers and the chorus performed with great skill, never more so than in the delightful “Step In Time” number.

In her program notes, Director Anita Shikoski gave much credit to the technical crew who figured out how to make Mary Poppins fly, which was spectacular, but also added all the delightful little touches I remember from the movie, like Mary pulling a long hat rack out of her bag, or the colorful kite flying scene.

The play has a lot of heart to go along with the wonderful music. It explores a dysfunctional family, and goes a little deeper than the movie to the root of that dysfunction with the brief introduction of the father’s sadistic old nanny. Mary Poppins comes along to teach not only the children, but the parents how to get along.

I’ve been in a few of musicals where I had a chance to watch parts of the show from the wings, but it was a great experience to watch from the auditorium seats and be thrilled by everything.

Congratulations to the State Street Theater Co. I know the group is conducting a capital campaign to raise money for theater improvements and get the company firmly established in its new home. If you saw “Mary Poppins,” you know that supporting SSTC is an investment in a real community asset.

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One of the things I like about community theater is the way it brings people from all walks of life together.

In Albert Lea, I got to know judges, lawyers, ministers, psychologists, business owners, teachers, students and folks from all social strata. I got to know them as people, and we were all united by our interest and love of the theater. You might play a lead role in one show, be an extra in another, or work on construction, props or costumes. We were all united in telling the story and everyone was appreciated for the talents they brought.

I met my wife Marijo in the first play I was ever in, “Finian’s Rainbow.” We moved to Albert Lea about the same time, but didn’t meet until we were in the show. She was the choral director, I was in the chorus, and we’ve been making beautiful music ever since.

State Street Theater Co. is doing the same for New Ulm.

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Kevin Sweeney has been the managing editor of The Journal since May 1985. A native of St. Paul, he worked at newspapers in LeSueur and Albert Lea before moving to New Ulm. Contact him at ksweeney@nujournal.com.

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