Practically Perfect: ‘Mary Poppins’ at Morristown High

SUPERCALI-what? Julia Cama as 'Mary Poppins' at MHS, March 2024. Photo by Kevin Coughlin


In an early scene of Mary Poppins, this weekend’s spring musical at Morristown High School, the mischievous Banks children listen incredulously as their new nanny melodiously introduces herself as Practically Perfect.

It’s a pretty apt description of this production.

For starters, it serves as a perfect MHS swan song for the Cama twins, seniors Julia (Mary Poppins) and Charlotte (the Bird Woman).

They’ve harmonized on family car trips since they were little. As 7th graders they won Morristown Onstage together. Charlotte starred in Anything Goes last month at the Delbarton School–she was fabulous–and last spring at Morristown High she was Cinderella to Julia’s Fairy Godmother. Both were superb. This weekend marks their seventh MHS show together.

So when they duet on Feed the Birds, it’s a moment where even Mary Poppins, a paragon of poise, struggles to stay in character.

“It’s emotional. Every time we do Feed the Birds together, it reminds me that it is our last show together. But hopefully, not our very last. Just the last in high school,” Julia said after Wednesday’s dress rehearsal.

The Cast: Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click/hover for captions:

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It’s even emotional for some of the cast. Sophomore Abby Higgins, who plays Mrs. Brill, the Banks family’s maid, has looked up to the Camas since their days at the Borough School of Morris Plains.

“They’re both incredibly multi-talented, and I’ve been striving to be like them,” Higgins said. “I’ve known them since 3rd grade. I hope I get to see them in the future shows they’re in.”

The Cama sisters have not yet chosen colleges, but music figures in their plans. They actually are triplets; Julia said she is proudest of their brother Daniel. As co-stage manager, he helps herd the 140 students who make up this Poppins production.

So there’s that.


And then there is Elliot Eck.  A leading man easily could disappear in the penumbra of Julia’s Mary Poppins. But Eck more than holds his own as Mary’s good-hearted, chimney-sweeping pal, Bert. He even manages a convincing Cockney accent.

Not bad for a freshman. He did not even bother going over the script at home.

“Never. We blocked it (on stage), and I memorized it,” Eck said.

A year ago he was Professor Marvel in The Wizard of Oz at the Borough School. (The new Actors Studio?) Now, Eck’s philosophy sounds very much like Bert, and bodes well for  Morristown High School Theatre, post-Camas.

“People need to be entertained. They need to have some fun. That is integral in society,” Eck said. “If I didn’t entertain, I don’t know what I would do.”

Mary & Bert: Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click/hover for captions:

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Mary Poppins has been entertaining audiences for generations. Penned by P.L. Travers in 1934, it’s the story of a nanny who helps two children win the love of their workaholic father. Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke starred in the 1964 screen version, a hit for Disney. On Broadway, Mary Poppins rang up 2,619 performances between 2006 and 2013. Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey on PBS, wrote the book for the Poppins musical.

At MHS, junior Josie Gulisano (Jane Banks) and freshman Amelia Corcoran (Michael Banks) pull off challenging assignments as neglected, whiny, untamed brats who ultimately fall under Mary’s magical spell. Kevin Clark (the butler, Robertson Ay) and Maggie McDermott (nasty nanny Miss Andrew) hit some high notes, literally.

The Banks Kids: Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin. Click/hover for captions:

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The dance numbers–notably Jolly Holiday, Supercalifragi…etc., and Step in Time — are jolly spectacles.

Other “practically perfect” accolades must go to students in The Mary Poppins Orchestra, who tackle a demanding score, and to the student crew that fashioned some of the costumes and built elaborate sets that require lots of high school muscle to maneuver on-and off-stage.

SPOILER ALERT! Mary’s “flying machine” is a clever piece of work that should keep the lawyers happy.

Dress rehearsals always have a few kinks. But Wednesday’s run-through generated an enthusiastic response from an audience of senior citizens — traditionally a tough crowd. Friday’s opening “will be smooth as butter,” Julia Cama promised.

Finally… they say timing is everything. With so much grim news in the world, this seems like the perfect time for Mary Poppins and its uplifting themes.

“The Spoonful of Sugar is giving someone what they need,” said sophomore Jackson Miller, who plays Mr. Banks.

Anything Can Happen if you let it!” chimed Corcoran, whose credits include Katie the bass player in School of Rock at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.

Julia & Charlotte. Click/hover for captions:

Orion's Belt -- Charlotte Cama, Anna Grace Yurek and Julia Cama--at Morristown Onstage 2019. Photo by Katelyn Nagy
Orion's Belt, from left, Charlotte Cama, Anna Grace Yurek and Julia Cama, in the Green Room at Morristown Onstage 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Orion's Belt, winners of the popular vote at the 2019 Morristown Onstage. From left: Julia Cama, Anna Grace Yurek and Charlotte Cama. Photo by Louise Witt.
Orions Belt
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It’s really all about feeding the birds, Julia Cama explained.

“The whole message is that one little act of kindness–you know, two pence, tuppence a bag — that’s all you need. The smallest thing to give back, and it changes people’s lives,” she said.

And when the final curtain comes down on Sunday, maybe there is a takeaway for Morristown High’s Mary Poppins and Bird Woman, for their respective next acts.

“Do what you love, the stars will align, they’ll take you where you need to be,” Julia said.

Mary Poppins, directed by Stephanie Rubin with musical direction by David Gallagher, has four shows this weekend, March 22-24, 2024: Friday at 7 pm, Saturday at 2 pm and 7 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets: $8-$15. For an extra $5, kids can have tea and biscuits with Mary and Bert before the matinees. Guests also are asked to bring items to donate to the Raptor Trust, a nonprofit sanctuary for injured birds. Details are here. Morristown High is at 50 Early St.

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