Inside the REmote REimagining of “Mary Poppins”


Courtesy of RE Drama Department

The Mary Poppins cast poses during a rehearsal.

With COVID-19 cases rising in the United States, the cast and director of Mary Poppins, the Spring musical, were left no choice but to brainstorm ideas of how to produce the musical in adherence to CDC guidelines. Despite being faced with new protocols and the possibility of another shutdown, drama teacher Ms. Samantha Shapiro found new ways to ensure that the show would go on and, in her words, “preserve and refine their adaptability.”

So what is Mary Poppins going to look like next semester? The musical “will essentially be a fully produced and professionally recorded music video,said Ms. Shapiro. Before the holiday break, the cast members recorded their vocals over professional backing tracks. In order to maintain a proper distance of six feet, no more than two students recorded at the same time.  

But the new format is not the only notable thing about the Mary Poppins reimagining. From the beginning, it has also been a huge, complicated experiment in producing theatre while following strict health and social distancing guidelines.

“The only rule is safetyand health is of utmost importance,” said Mr. Quincy Knowles, who teaches Technical Theatre and manages the stage behind the scenes. Actor Natasha Rodriguez ‘23 especially gave credit to Mr. Knowles for properly sterilizing the area with Clorox wipes before and after a new student goes in to record their piece. 

“Before, between, and after each use all equipment is wiped down by students and myself with sanitizing wipes. That includes tools, microphones, goggles, etc. I also constantly open the shop doors to keep the facility’s air flowing,” said Mr. Knowles.  

Mary Poppins is not only a production of music; it heavily features dance as well. Students have been learning the choreography for the play virtually, and most choreography has been taught by Ms. Shapiro. Once they begin filming the scenes of the play, the actors will perform the choreography and simultaneously lip sync their own recordings.  

One scene will consist of Mary Poppins, played by Jaime Lockhart ‘21, lip syncing her pre-recorded audio as the dancers perform their choreography. All performers will maintain a distance of six feet, hoping to adhere to CDC guidelines while producing a captivating performance.   

The biggest challenge for the actors, aside from not working together, was “accepting the fact that performing on stage to an audience is no longer a possibility for us,” said Rodriguez. The actors feed off the audience’s energy, so not having an audience has proven to be a hardship.

“I’m practicing with friends when I can, and I’m really looking forward to when we can hopefully all be together,” said Lockhart.

Even though students involved in the show have been disappointed about some of these changes, however, they praised the drama department for meeting the challenges of COVID in creative ways. “Ms. Shapiro’s creativity has provided us with a new way to present a show we are all excited about! emphasized Rodriguez. 

For Mr. Knowles, the new format “opened an entirely new world for the tech team.” He and Ms. Shapiro have both assured their students that, by recording their work with new technology and sharing it through online platforms, their talent will be recognized and celebrated. 

As Shapiro put it, “Creative humans can do anything they set their hearts to.”

A link to the live stream of the play will be shared with the Ransom Everglades community on April 1516, and 17.