Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre opens the regional premiere of the practically perfect musical Mary Poppins, this Wednesday, July 23. In part two of a three part interview series, we meet two of the young stars of Mary Poppins: Ella Schnoor (Jane Banks) and Tyson Francis (Michael Banks).
Please introduce yourselves.
Ella: My name is Ella Schnoor. I am going to be in seventh grade this year and I go to school at Frederick County Middle School. I am playing Jane Banks in the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious show, Mary Poppins. I sing, play trumpet, and take dance lessons at Shenandoah Conservatory Arts Academy. I love to act. Last winter, I was Little Cosette in Reston Community Players’ Les Misérables and last fall I was Princess Catherine in One More Night at the Kennedy Center Page to Stage Festival. I do many shows but when you don’t see me on stage singing, you can see me doing a dance recital or a trumpet class. I also like to play with my dogs and hang out with my friends.
Tyson: Hi, my name is Tyson Francis and I am going to be a seventh grader at Daniel Morgan Middle School in the fall. I will be playing the part of Michael Banks in SSMT’s production of Mary Poppins. I study dance and ballet at Vostrikov’s Academy of Ballet in Winchester, VA and have been in various productions including Nutcracker, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Puss in Boots, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter and the Wolf. Previously I was cast as an orphan in SSMT’s production of Oliver! in 2011. In addition, I am active with my church’s drama group and chorus. In my limited spare time I enjoy middle school youth group and helping lead worship with preschoolers at church.
What is the most exciting thing about performing with SSMT this summer?
Ella: Mary Poppins is the first musical I ever saw, and I am so excited to be getting to play Jane Banks this summer. One of the things I love about performing with SSMT this summer is getting to meet so many wonderful actors and doing something I love. Tyson (Michael) and I have worked together to become better friends and we got together on our own to work on lines and music together. I love every bit of working with great people this summer.
Tyson: I am excited to be a part of the show because of the choreography. Growing up I was a fan of the movie Mary Poppins and I have always wanted to play the part of Michael Banks.
What do you like most about your character? What do you like the least?
Ella: What I don’t like about Jane is that even when she has seen magic and done so many wonderful things in one day, she is still a brat who always fights with her brother. What I like most about Jane is that even though she is a bratty little kid, you can tell she has a kind heart. For instance, you aren’t supposed to like her at the beginning, but when she meets Miss Andrew, a realization hits her and she thinks “That was how Daddy was treated!” Michael and Jane give Daddy money and it’s just a heart melting moment because Mr. Banks doesn’t know what to say and the kids do it without Mary Poppins. .
Tyson: I like that Jane and Michael are a team as brother and sister because in real life I just have a brother and I always thought it would be fun to have a sister. I don’t like that Michael is mean and sassy at the beginning of the play. It makes for an interesting story line, but Michael has a lot to learn. Every time the play starts, he and Jane have to misbehave to lure in Mary Poppins’ help at Cherry Tree Lane.
How have you gone about creating your character?
Ella: I did a lot of homework to try to create my character as someone refreshing and not the same Jane Banks everyone is bored of. When I found out I had the part, I read all the books and even did a book report about Jane Banks, where I compared her life to mine and rewrote a scene from Jane’s point of view. I also memorized my lines and music as fast as possible and had a few voice coaching sessions. Tyson and I got together on our own before rehearsals started to practice our lines together. Even when I was on the plane to and back from Costa Rica I listened to my lines and music. Then I practiced my accent a little so I had it under my belt. By then, I was able to understand my character a lot more.
Tyson: I have studied hard to memorize my lines and show up at rehearsal as prepared as I possibly can be. I have also done a lot of internet research on previous productions of Mary Poppins and studied choices that other boys have made to make Michael Banks come alive.
What was something that surprised you about the show?
Ella: I was surprised at how many things from the books got worked into the show that are not in the movie. The songs from the movie are there, but there are a lot of great new songs and the story looks a lot more at the Banks family. If you saw the movie Saving Mr. Banks, you’ll be surprised at how many things P.L. Travers was able to get into the musical that she didn’t get into the movie.
Tyson: I was surprised to read that Mary Poppins leaves the play at the end of the first act. I was surprised that Spoonful of Sugar is about the kitchen breaking, rather than the nursery. The nursery clean-up is now Practically Perfect.
How have rehearsals been going for Mary Poppins?
Ella: Rehearsal is fun and hard at the same time because we have to learn all that blocking and choreography in two weeks. We’ve worked eight hours a day learning how to put such a big show on its feet in a really short time. It’s hard enough for the kids, but many of the adults have been in all four of the summer stock shows and have to go perform every day after our rehearsals. But this is what I want to do and I’m having a wonderful time.
Tyson: They have been fun and exciting and hard. There’s a lot of blocking to learn in two weeks. It’s a Broadway show that we’re learning in two weeks.
What is your favorite scene in Mary Poppins?
Ella: My favorite scene is the kitchen scene because so much magic goes on in that scene and I get to use lots of shaving cream. It’s possibly the most fun scene ever. I really love all the scenes, but I also love the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious scene because the scenery amazing and it’s so colorful and we have a great time singing the song and doing the choreography.
Tyson: I love the kitchen scene because I love when everything breaks and Mary Poppins fixes it all in a few seconds. It’s theatre magic so I can’t tell you how it’s done. I also love Jolly Holiday because of the blocking and choreography.
What do you enjoy most about being on stage?
Ella: The thing I like most about being on stage is getting to do something I feel like I was born to do, and getting to perform with amazing actors and actresses. I also love the costumes and how comfortable I feel on stage. I don’t feel stressed. I also like a little pressure so it can push me to the next level.
Tyson: I enjoy the choreography the most while being on stage. I love to dance.
Why should people come see your show?
Ella: People should come see this show because you can laugh at our humor for a
while and have some heart breaking moments too. It is appropriate for any age, so we hope we will see many faces during all our shows! I think that our audiences will enjoy every minute of it.
Tyson: I am excited to be in this show and humbled to be chosen for such a big part. It is such a privilege to learn and study with experts at SSMT. People should come to see my show because Mary Poppins is a popular movie and play that is fun for all ages.
Mary Poppins plays July 23-August 3, 2014 at Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre, performing at the Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre – 1460 University Drive, in Winchester, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (540) 665-4569, or (877) 580-8025, or purchase them online.
Meet the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Stars of SSMT’s Magical Premiere of ‘Mary Poppins’ Part One: Meet Catharine Kay and Patrick Clealand Rosé.