Some of the actors in Nikiski Middle-High School’s production of “Mary Poppins” have mastered their characters’ British accents. Some are still working on it.
To be fair, they’re not the only Americans who have struggled with it. Actor Dick Van Dyke, who played the character Bert in Disney’s film version of the classic story, famously adopted an accent widely regarded as one of the worst false British accents in film history. But to some, it hasn’t been too difficult.
“It wasn’t really that hard,” said Ariel Van Zandt, who plays several roles in the production, including one of the chimney sweeps in the famous “Step in Time” rooftop tap dance scene.
Music teachers often tell singers to lengthen their vowels anyway, like singing in a British accent, said Nikiski High School music teacher Kristen Dillon. Many of the students in the production are part of an annual Musical Theater class the school offers, she said.
Some of the actors, like Van Zandt, said they’ve never seen the film version. Others grew up with it. Director Joe Rizzo, who also teaches music at Nikiski High School, said the stage version is very different than the film.
“You have to tell (the actors) that it takes more acting chops (to do the stage version),” he said.
Some of the actors come naturally to the stage, but others are new to musical theater, Dillon said. She said the actress playing Mary Poppins, Emilee Tiner, didn’t originally want to try out for a leading role but has come into her own on the stage since.
“It’s great to watch them come out of their shells,” she said.
The Nikiski students are producing the junior version of a full-length musical still performed on Broadway stages, complete with early 20th century costumes and sets. It premieres Friday, with shows at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and two more on May 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $15.