Melrose–Playing the part of Bert in the musical “Mary Poppins” is a perfect fit for Spencer Van Beck.

“Bert is a really quirky character and even ditzy at some points, but he’s sincere and down to earth when it comes to caring for the Banks’ children and having fun with Mary,” Van Beck said Thursday morning, adding. “It’s fun to play someone who is so similar to me.”

Portraying Mary Poppins is a “dream come true,” for KT Mueller. 

“This has definitely been a bucket list role. As Mary Poppins I get to do magic. What’s not to like about this role,” said Mueller. 

The camaraderie between Van Beck and Mueller is evident. The two have acted together on stage twice. Van Beck played Fredrick, a Von Trapp family member, in the “The Sound of Music,” while Mueller played Maria, and in the “Wizard of Oz” Mueller played the Wicked Witch, and Van Beck was “my head flying monkey,” Mueller said Thursday afternoon. 

“Working with Spencer is fantastic,” said Mueller, adding, “We’re goofy at the same time.” 

This time the two on are on stage again for the Sauk River Players production of “Mary Poppins,” which runs at 7:30 p.m. July 16, 17, 18 and 20 and at 2 p.m. on July 22 in the Marit Elliott Performing Arts Center in Melrose.  

The storyline has nanny Mary Poppins taking the Banks children, Michael and Jane, on adventures. Bert, with his Cockney accent, is a jack-of-all-trades and friend of Mary Poppins, who looks on the bright side and compassionately looks after the Banks children. 

There are 38 cast members in the production, directed by Marit Elliott, Andrew Engel and Callie Mayers. 

The message of this “big dance show” musical, Elliot said, is “about how Mary Poppins helps the Banks family become a closer family.” 

“It’s a really talented cast, and we’re working really hard because there’s a lot of dancing,” she said, adding, “It’s a lot of fun.” 

Van Beck’s favorite song is “Step In Time.”

“It’s about Bert explaining that there are chimney sweeps who live above all the houses in London, and they look over the children. No matter what, the chimney sweeps will be there for the children,” explains Van Beck, a 2018 Melrose Area High School graduate and the son of Sara and Noah Van Beck of Freeport.

There is another reason why it’s his favorite.

“I learned how to tap dance,” said Van Beck, adding, “And there is a surprise trick we do in ‘Step in Time,’” he said.

For Mueller, a 2011 Melrose Area High School graduate and the daughter of Theresa and Bob Mueller of Melrose, perfecting the dance steps, including tap dancing, has been the most challenging but learning right along with Van Beck has been a plus.  

Mueller said her favorite part is the song “Playing the Game,” where the toys come to life.

“It’s not in the film but it’s an interesting part of the stage version. You see a little darker side of Mary Poppins. Of course, she’s very loving and caring, but she’s more about ‘tough love,’” said Mueller.

She said the character of Mary Poppins is very different than other character work she’s done—and during her high school and post high school years she has performed in many plays, including more recently nine plays over a 1 ½ year span when she lived in Duluth. While she is in “Mary Poppins,” she is performing in a science-fiction show in Minneapolis portraying two characters who are on the stage at the same time. 

“It’s like I’m talking to myself,” she said. 

So how does she get into the character of Mary Poppins?

“I see her as more restrained. … I don’t think of her as quite human. That’s why she is so different,” said Mueller. 

Van Beck, who will be attending Minnesota State University in Moorhead this fall for elementary education, estimates this is his 15th production, either in high school or with the Sauk River Players or Town and Country Players. (Yes, he’s hoping to do community theatre in Moorhead.) His very first experience on stage dates back to third grade when he was in a spring theatre production put on by Bonnie Poepping. Ironically, Bonnie is the set director for “Mary Poppins.” Playing Bert in “Mary Poppins” has been one of his most challenging characters. 

“Bert doesn’t speak normal English and I had to learn an accent,” said Van Beck. 

Mueller and Van Beck are eager to bring “Mary Poppins” to the Melrose stage.

It’s sure to be super-cali-fragil-istic-expi-ali-docious.