Nov. 4 2010 12:00 AM

The set is perhaps the biggest star of 'Mary Poppins'


(Thursday, Nov. 4) It was many hard hours and long nights in the making, but the set for the Wharton Center’s "Mary Poppins" is ready for the spotlight.

The set, which includes the famous Banks House, is a fully modernized piece of stagecraft, which works sort of like a mechanized dollhouse. The large house doors open on cue, adding entire dimensions to the set. Furniture rolls in and other rooms descend from the rafters — and much of it is controlled by technology, its various parts operated by computer. The whole house can even rotate a full 360 degrees.

Stage manager Thomas Recktenwald likened the whole process to a “pop-up storybook.”

“Scenically, we do a mix of ‘in one’ and ‘a vista’ changes on stage,” said Recktenwald. “The audience watches it happen, and from scene to scene, they don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
The set, of which the Banks House is merely the largest part — clocking in at around 11,000 pounds — traveled via 14 semis all the way from Buffalo. According to Recktenwald, the hefty set takes around 32 hours to set up, a two-day rush.

The show brings a lot of manpower with it as well. The "Mary Poppins" touring company consists of 80 people, and employs around 30 more for its local crew on arrival. It takes all of them to run the show.


‘Mary Poppins’

Thursday, Nov. 4 to Sunday, Nov. 21

Wharton Center

1:30 p.m. Nov. 4; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and
Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2 p.m. and Saturdays; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sundays.