Mary Poppins: Covid Alert level 1 means show will (finally) go on

It’s a practically perfect release from Covid restrictions.

The feel-good musical Mary Poppins will deliver a spoonful of sugar to theatre goers for the first time in months.

The hit Broadway show will open next week at The Civic, the historic Auckland theatre that hasn’t seen anyone tread the boards since its Covid-forced closure in March.

Auckland joined the rest of the country on level 1 at 11.59pm on Wednesday, lifting gathering restrictions and allowing theatres to open.

The opening of The Civic also meant it was back to work for close to 150 people on Mary Poppins, from cast and crew, orchestra, ushers, front of house and theatre management.

With no events since level 4 lockdown, staff at The Civic, Auckland Town Hall and the Aotea Centre were redeployed to other Auckland Live venues such as the Auckland Zoo and the Art Gallery.

Robbie Macrae from Auckland Live said the redeployed theatre staff worked in similar roles but showed flexibility and positivity. Many had the opportunity to upskill and learn about the other businesses.

Because Mary Poppins runs in evenings and weekends the 28-strong all-Kiwi cast kept their day jobs.

Shaan Kloet who plays Mary Poppins works in education, Caroline Everitt who plays mother Winifred Banks works for her family’s chocolate shop, and lolly shop lady Mrs Corry is school teacher Maria Angela Vaa.

G & T Productions co-director Terry O’Connor said it was a tense wait as those working on the show awaited confirmation of alert level 1.

The show was rescheduled twice because of the pandemic.

“There has been a huge amount of uncertainty for everyone involved in Mary Poppins so there was a sigh of relief when we knew we could finally do it,” O’Connor said.

“These people have given their heart and soul and so to know it is finally going to happen is quite emotional for everyone.”

The production is adapted from PL Travers’ classic stories and the beloved Walt Disney film, with special effects, choreography and songs.

It tells the story of a magical nanny and the order she brings to the dysfunctional Banks family living at 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

Despite two lockdowns and rehearsals hampered by social distancing, O’Connor said the show was going to be world-class.

“We were ready to go in March and then Covid hit so we had rehearsals via Zoom,” he said.

“We were ready to go again and then we had the second wave of Covid so when we could, it was socially distanced rehearsals with performers wearing masks.”

He said an all-Kiwi cast and crew meant showcasing New Zealand performers who were “world-class”.

“They are all very well-rehearsed and ready to show New Zealand how amazing local talent is.”

O’Connor said opening night at The Civic was expected to be emotional for the entire cast and crew – and the audience.

“Coming out of Covid there is going to be a few tears in the audience,” O’Connor said.

“We have all been through a lot and this is a real feel-good musical that can really lift the spirits.”

O’Connor’s company lost $120,000 in March, when Mary Poppins was cancelled.

An additional $70,000 was spent on marketing when restrictions eased but then there were more postponements because of the second wave of Covid.

The theatre and events community has called for more conversation with decision makers about how shows could go on safely if alert levels rise again.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff visited the cast and crew this week at The Civic to celebrate the reopening once the alert level was lowered.

The Civic is the largest theatre in the world to reopen since Covid shut Broadway and The West End.

The show runs from October 16 to November 1 at The Civic in Auckland.

Tickets were selling fast after a rush on sales just after the alert level announcement.

Prices ranged from $27.50 to the $130 “Practically Perfect” package, which includes premium seating, VIP lounge access, welcome drink and snacks, souvenir programme, icecream at interval, and the use of a private washroom.

Venue:The Civic, Auckland
Tickets: Ticketmaster
Prices: From $27.50

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