Magic of Mary Poppins makes way to Stevens Point
By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — The Central Wisconsin Area Community Theater (cwACT) wants to treat audiences to a spoonful of sugar, and there’s no better way to do that than through the story of Mary Poppins.
Opening at Sentry Theater on Oct. 26, this “practically perfect” performance will feature talents from Stevens Point, Rosholt, Amherst, and Wisconsin Rapids. The performance is an adaptation of the 2004 Tony award-winning Broadway musical and well-known 1964 Walt Disney motion picture.
The show in itself boasts a large cast with over 30 actors bringing their unique talents to the stage. For 22-year-old Ryan Goszkowicz, it has been both a challenge and an honor to work in a production where he has filled multiple roles. For this production, Goszkowicz takes on the roles of Assistant Choreographer, Principal Dancer, and plays a statue that comes to life in Neleus.
“With any community theater show there’s a wide range of talents, so as much as it is a challenge, it’s kind of cool because naturally in life there is that between people.” said Goszkowicz.
Born in Milwaukee, Goszkowicz grew up in Rosholt where would eventually land at UWSP to study music. He would attend the Young Americans College of the Performing Arts in Corona, Calif., and eventually enjoy a spot touring with famed performer Todrick Hall.
“Everybody has their own thing that they’re confident in, and I believe that dancing is one of my strong suits, so that is something I am bringing in,” said Goszkowicz. “Through that, people are pushing me to get better in other areas.”
Another performer getting into other areas is none other than Mary Poppins herself — 20-year-old Claire Hoenecke, who has gone from ensemble in last year’s cwACT production of the Addams Family Musical, to leading role as the iconic character.
For Hoenecke, this role has come full circle as in her youth, she was dressed as Mary Poppins for a wax museum project. She has also seen the production in London, New York, and Chicago.
“It’s kind of terrifying, but also exciting,” said Hoenecke, who grew up in Cottage Grove, Wis. “I’ve never had a role quite this big, but it’s also really fun because I get to be Mary Poppins.”
Involved in theater since the age of 8, Hoenecke has attended the Seton Center for Performing Arts, and currently attends UWSP for Communications with a minor in Drama. While there is little downside to playing Mary, keeping her vocal chords healthy is a top priority.
“It’s very vocally demanding,” said Hoenecke. “So it’s keeping up with that, and keeping my voice healthy and singing in a sustainable way so I can have the same sound at the end of the show as I had at the beginning.”
What’s a Mary Poppins without a Bert?
Playing the role of the iconic chimney sweep is 34-year-old Rosholt actor Josh Panter. With over 20 years of theatrical experience, Panter took home an award for Best Actor in the state Wisconsin AACTFest competition in 2017.
“I am super thrilled with the amount of dancing and physicality of this show.” said Panter.
While Panter is enjoying his dream role as Bert, what he is enjoying more is being on stage with his wife, ensemble member Chelsea Bassett.
“Honestly, it’s like everything old is new again,” said Panter about working with his wife. Bassett is a former music major who studied piano. “Having that resource at home who can go over lines and songs with me — she’s amazing.”
Playing the role of Winifred Banks is 21-year-old Katrina Reigh, who has taken on a role of an older woman, which is been a challenge.
“It’s tough to relate to relate to someone who is married with children, which I am not,” said Reigh. “I have been able to find other ways to relate to Winifred, so I’ve been trying to pull that.”
Reigh has a double major in arts management and museum studies. She has been involved in theater since the age of 9, and if all goes well, will make it her entire life. Reigh would like to one day operate a theater of her own. While the show has thrown curveballs at her for playing an older character, there is one silver lining in playing Winifred.
“Luckily, I don’t have to dance. I’m not a good dancer.” joked Reigh.
According to Artistic Director and Wausau native Tana De Lonay, she has aimed to make the show a magical experience for all ages, reminiscent of the magic and inspiration the movie gave her as a youth. As with any production, being a director has its share of challenges.
“As a first-time director, really learning to respect that every area — choreography, music, and blocking — each have enough time to teach and review what they need to has been a challenge,” said the 32-year-old De Lonay. “This show ended up being very complex for scenic design, as it features as two-level revolve set.”
However, De Lonay is well-equipped for the role, as she has performed in theater since the age of 8. De Lonay won Central Wisconsin Idol in 2008, and spent many years touring and leading regional R&B and blues bands. She returned to theater in 2013, and played major roles in Chicago, Young Frankenstein, and Shrek.
Like Hoenecke, this show comes full-circle, as not only had she worked as Assistant Director for last year’s Addams’ Family production, but was the co-director for the award-winning Diary of Adam and Eve production that featured Josh Panter. (Bert)
“The show is very complex in a number of areas, and I’m committed not only to creating the technical magic through special effects, but also through the larger than life dance numbers, as well as the lessons Mary teaches us throughout,” said De Lonay. “Everything she does has intention, and she teaches us to see things in different ways.”
“Not only is there visual and special effects magic, but Mary teaches us the magic of the heart.”
For tickets, please visit cwtickets.com. Show dates are Oct. 26-28, (Sunday matinee at 2PM) and Nov. 2-3. All showtimes are 7:30 p.m. unless noted. Sentry Theater is located at 1800 Northpoint Dr.