'Mary Poppins on Ice,' at Columbia Ice Rink, features ebullient cast of 88

March 25, 1994|By Patrick Hickerson | Patrick Hickerson,Contributing Writer

For those who love to watch ice skating -- but hate the stress of competitions -- the Columbia Figure Skating Club has entertainment without the judges.

"Mary Poppins on Ice," adapted from the books by Australian writer P. L. Travers and the 1964 movie starring Julie Andrews, will be presented in four performances by the Columbia Figure Skating Club this weekend at the Columbia Ice Rink in Oakland Mills.

The story centers on the magical nanny Mary Poppins, skated by Martha Muth, who tames two impish children and disrupts the Edwardian order of a 1910 British home.

Artistic director for this weekend's production is Pat Muth, mother of Martha and senior instructor at the Columbia Ice Rink. She has directed these extravaganzas since they began two decades ago. Previous shows have included adaptations from family fare such as "The Little Mermaid," "The Wizard of Oz" as well as one that featured Disney music, which Ms. Muth considers the most successful of all the shows.

This weekend's show includes a cast of 88 performers, including 52 chimney sweeps, ranging in age from 4 to 64. A handful of the skaters are professionals.

Through lighting, wind machines and a cannon for Admiral Boom, the show hopes to capture the magic of the tale.

Compared with her other shows, Ms. Muth says she finds the unique quality of "Mary Poppins on Ice" in its seamlessness. The show has few breaks or outside interruptions in the action.

"There are no announcers. We're not even going to announce the pair team [from Delaware] except at the beginning."

She said the influence for this decision came when she saw Dorothy Hamill's Ice Capades perform "Cinderella -- Frozen in Time" last November, which was choreographed by Tim Murphy with artistic direction by Nathan Birch, both of whom she considers mentors. Messrs. Murphy and Birch are part of the Baltimore-based ice-dance company, the Next Ice Age.

"They don't do clapping. They don't do announcing. They just [skate continuously]," she said.

Martha Muth is joined in the production by Steve Summers as Bert, Russ Rzemien as Uncle Albert and Dan Coggins and Robin Mauer as Mr. and Mrs. Banks. The Banks' children are played by Anna Campos and Michael Habib.

The show, which runs slightly more than an hour, will feature musical numbers from the Oscar-winning movie including "Just a Spoonful of Sugar," "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "I Love to Laugh" and "Let's Go Fly a Kite."

"Let's Go Fly a Kite" features Jessica and Jonathon Hunt, members of the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club's national team.

Ebullience is the most accurate word to describe Martha, 29, an auburn dynamo, who toured with Dorothy Hamill for two years and performed in her nationally televised "Nutcracker on Ice" in 1990. She is also a member of the Next Ice Age and a staff member at the Columbia Ice Rink.

During an interview, she constantly pulls younger members of the cast from around the rink to introduce them and give a pep talk before rehearsal.

"I teach all of these kids, and it's good two see them excited in their little costumes," she said.

"I'm really excited. I've never been the star before," said Martha, who first strapped on a pair of double-blade skates for a frozen pond in Baltimore when she was 2. She turned professional in 1982.

Technically, she has some apprehension.

"Jumps. I haven't jumped in a show in a long time. I started jumping again this year," she said.

L "The acting is the hardest part. But it's the most fun too."

The Columbia Figure Skating Club will present Mary Poppins on Ice at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Columbia Ice Rink, 5876 Thunder Hill Road, Columbia. Tickets are $8 for adults; $6 for children from 2 to 10. A technical dress rehearsal for seniors, Scout troops, church-affiliated groups and members of nonprofit organizations will take place at 6 p.m. today. Tickets are $4 for the rehearsal. Information: 730-0322.

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