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Mary Poppins preparations ramp up, barely a month from showtime

The clock is ticking down until the Flin Flon Community Choir’s production of Mary Poppins takes to the stage. The group has barely a month left until opening night and preparations have been feverish.
P19 Mary Poppins
Crystal Kolt holds up a poster for the Flin Flon Community Choir's planned 2023 performance of the musical Mary Poppins during a kick-off show at Johnny's Social Club May 14.

The clock is ticking down until the Flin Flon Community Choir’s production of Mary Poppins takes to the stage. The group has barely a month left until opening night and preparations have been feverish.

The show’s cast has been busy in rehearsals, costumes are being made, sets are being designed and constructed and, generally, work is being done.

Choir leader Crystal Kolt said the show’s creation has been a whirlwind, in several ways. To put the show together, organizers have brought in help from all around Canada - and a high budget for the show means the choir is seeking to fundraise to cover some of the costs.

“It’s been busy and wonderful - it’s a really, really powerful production. I think it really speaks to our community and what we want to do going forward - all that magic has made it really fun,” Kolt said.

The show is scheduled to be three nights at the Flin Flon Community Hall, from May 5-7 - the choir may include a fourth show, but that decision has not yet been confirmed.

The show’s production is including some out-of-town assistance, along with local presences to help keep things on track. Director Ann Hodges, who directed shows like Mamma Mia and Les Miserables for the choir, is back, working with assistant directors Courtney Lycan and Natalie Milligan, both Flin Flon locals and arts scene regulars. Hodges was in Flin Flon for a month in January and a week last month working with the cast and will return next month for more work with the entire group - after the show wraps in late May, Hodges will head to Taiwan to helm a new production.

Wes Pearce, the set and costume designer for Regina’s Globe Theatre and a theatre professor at the Univ. of Regina, is on board for the show, designing sets - local builders are putting them together for the show in May. Toronto choreographer Madelyn Miyashita, a recommendee from Hodges, is tasked with the movement of the cast throughout the show and has been working with the actors, including sending videos of the steps to the actors.

The community choir has held a large-scale musical every odd-numbered year since 1997, when the group first held a showing of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. With the exception of 2021, when COVID-19 and ongoing pandemic restrictions made hosting a show nigh on impossible, it’s been going on ever since - Mary Poppins marks show number 13 for the choir and for Kolt. Two casts for kids’ roles have been assembled to cover the announced shows and unlike Mamma Mia, where almost all of the action took place on the floor of the community hall, the show will be held both on the hall floor and on its stage. The show will also feature a 15-piece orchestra to perform along with the acting cast.

“We are just finishing finding the musicians for the orchestra,” Kolt said.

The project is ambitious - and with that ambition comes a cost. The choir has had to fundraise to continue pushing the project along, with Kolt saying the cost of the show is already more than that of the choir’s most recent shows in 2017 and 2019. The scope of the project is bigger - Kolt says that’s on purpose, hoping that a bigger, flashier show will be something positive for Flin Flon in a time of economic upheaval.

“It’s a lot more expensive, even more than Les Mis and Mamma Mia. We’ve also jumped into it with the hope that we can produce something this expensive for the north. That has been a nail-biter, but we’re not alone with that - every company, I think in the world, has had to decide whether or not to move forward with a big project,” she said.

“I felt, especially with something like Mary Poppins, which is different from the movie, it really speaks to the issues we’ve been facing with the mine, with closure and our community envisioning a new future, a renaissance. It’s the musical theatre production, it has the favourite songs - it’s not so different from the movie that people won’t recognize it all, but there are some things that I think hit harder than in the movie, the importance of family and community - that’s the most important thing.”

Local groups have stepped up to help raise funds. The North Star Quilt Guild has offered up a quilt for a fundraising raffle, the arts council has offered free passes for the 2023-24 season and there are extra tiers for individual donors who choose to help out. In all, Kolt estimated the show will cost as much as $85,000 for the scheduled run.

Donors can chip in by emailing or by contacting the Uptown Emporium, the arts council’s artisan market.

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