Keeper of the Plans

Christian Youth Theater to present high-flying ‘Mary Poppins’

Mary Poppins with the Banks family in CYT’s production of “Mary Poppins.”
Mary Poppins with the Banks family in CYT’s production of “Mary Poppins.” Courtesy photo

It’s not often that actors and actresses in Wichita high-school theatre productions get to “fly” over their stages – though it’s a dream of many.

It’s an expensive endeavor, but ... how can you do justice to “Mary Poppins” without having her float over the stage, Linda McGinness asks?

“Everybody has different opportunities and this is theirs,” said McGinness, artistic director of Christian Youth Theater Wichita. “There’s just all kinds of deeper issues than how fun it is for them to fly. It takes this group of people that says, “Yes, I’ll stand in the background ... while they go up, and I won’t be seen.’”

That sort of attitude is pervasive in CYT, which places great importance on family values and group effort.

“We are really not after making stars,” McGinness said. “It’s more about developing the character, and that happens. It’s a family investment.”

High-flying action

What does it feel like to fly over a stage, suspended by wires and other cables?

“You kind of feel weightless,” said Christina Costello, who is playing Poppins in CYT’s production. “You have a harness and this big cord thing sticking out, but you don’t really feel like you’re on a machine. You feel like you’re actually flying and you could just fly right out of the theater.”

You feel like you’re actually flying and you could just fly right out of the theater

Christina Costello, Mary Poppins in CYT Wichita’s “Mary Poppins”

Costello, a 15-year-old homeschooler, has done this before.

CYT also brought in a company that specializes in flying effects for its 2014 production of “Peter Pan.”

Costello was one of five that flew over the stage in that show.

Alex Reida, who plays Bert in Mary Poppins, is the second actor who will fly as part of the CYT production.

Reida, a 17-year-old junior at Andover Central High School, will “do some flips, land back down and do a little bit of tap (dancing),” McGinness said.

Reida said he did not know about the flying when he auditioned.

“I’m really excited to see how it’s going to work out,” he said. “I’m not nervous – I’m more just curious about how it’s going to be like. I used to be super-scared of heights.”

The proscenium of the theater is about 16 feet high.

When it’s time for the actors and actresses to take off, there is a crew of two people backstage dedicated to sending them airborne. One person is in charge of lateral movement of the wires, and another is in charge of vertical movements.

The company contracted for the flight effects, ZFX Inc., did six hours of flight training in the theater on Friday, with the actors present for part of that.

McGinness said she hopes the intense backstage work will inspire her cast of 80 to appreciate the unseen work put into their production.

CYT at 7 years

CYT’s production of “Mary Poppins” is its 2016-17 season opener. In the winter, it will produce “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” and in the spring, “The Little Mermaid.”

Christian Youth Theater Wichita – a chapter of the national CYT organization – was founded in 2009 by McGinness.

CYT is an after-school theatre education program that trains students in all facets of performing art – voice, dance, drama, music theatre, improvisation and more.

Children 5 to 18 years old can take its classes, and those 8 to 18 are eligible to participate in the musicals.

The shows CYT produces are chosen because of their adherence to Judeo-Christian values. In the past, it’s done shows like “High School Musical,” “Tarzan” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

One of its productions had actors and actresses from 52 different high schools from across the state. The largest cast it’s ever accomodated had 92 people.

Actors and actresses in CYT have participated in Music Theatre Wichita productions before, and some are drama majors in college. Another studies at Circle in the Square in New York City.

Reida, the Andover Central junior, has performed in MTW and Wichita’s Music Theatre for Young People. He said he is considering returning in the spring for “The Little Mermaid.”

“It’s a great new experience,” he said. “I love every moment of it.”

Matt Riedl: 316-268-6660, @RiedlMatt

‘Mary Poppins’

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 3, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 4, and 2 and 7 p.m. Nov. 5

Where: Isley Traditional Magnet Elementary School, 5256 N. Woodlawn, Bel Aire

What: The Walt Disney Broadway musical (based on the film/book of the same name), “Mary Poppins,” that features 80 local (and statewide) theatre students in the CYT program

Admission: $15 at the door for adults, $13 for students 3-18 years old and seniors 62 and up. Tickets are $2 cheaper if purchased in advance by calling 316-682-1688