“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” We sang as loud as we could to the neighbors gathered on Cooks’ freshly cut lawn for our production of ‘Mary Poppins.’ In 1965, there may or may not have been parents in the audience.
The Cooks’ house was the number one place to go whenever anyone on our block was bored. With five kids: Mary Ellen, 16; Cathy, 14; Joannie, my age, 10; Lorie, 8, Jennifer’s age; and Paul, the baby, there was usually something going on.
“Let’s put on a show to raise money for the S.S. Hope!” Cathy, proposed one summer afternoon, as we sprawled on their screened porch. We decided on “Mary Poppins.” We all loved the movie, had the record, and knew all the words to the songs.
“Nancy, you’re a good singer, but you’re the tallest, so you’ll have to be Bert,” Mary Ellen pointed out. Nancy, the smartest girl in Overlook Elementary sixth grade, and my best friend, grimaced but was a good sport. She knew her height sealed her fate, and our neighborhood was predominantly girls.
“Jill, you’ll be Mary Poppins.” They knew I loved singing, and I was the right height beside Nancy. Jennifer had to play ‘Michael,’ a boy part, too, but at least it was a smaller part and her hair was very short. Lorie was ‘Jane.’
For weeks we practiced the script that Mary Ellen and Cathy wrote, argued over and revised. We scavenged our closets and attics for costumes. The hoop skirt for my chalk garden dress came from my mother’s wedding dress.
The afternoon arrived; tickets were one dollar. Kathy, another neighbor kid, sat at Cook’s white wooden gate taking tickets. Friends brought lawn chairs or sat in the grass in front of our stage, edges defined by hanging blankets from ropes. The back wall of the stage was the garage. The garage door led to our dressing room and backstage.
“Thank you for coming to our show!” Cathy, now the sole director after having creative differences with Mary Ellen, greeted everyone. Nancy, Jennifer, Lorie and I could hear her as we stood by the garage door, costumed and ready. We were excited.
The show began. Each scene went well, until the chalk garden scene. The choreography stopped the show, literally.
“She’s Supercali-“ Nancy, Jennifer, Lorie and I sang and kicked our feet into the air. My shoe caught the bottom of the hoop in my dress. I went down. The record accompanying us kept playing.
Nancy turned, saw me and the next word would not come.
“…fragilistic…” Jennifer and Lorie then realized the disaster and froze.
The audience stared.
“Get up!” Nancy whispered.
I tried. My foot was tangled in the skirt. I couldn’t stand up.
Cathy dashed out of the stage door, and announced to the audience, “We’ll have a five minute intermission.”
She and Nancy carried me back to the dressing room.
I wanted to cry, while Nancy and Cathy pushed and pulled the fabric to free my foot.
“Did you get hurt when you fell?” Cathy asked, .
“No,” I sniffed. “It’s just so embarrassing. I can’t go back out there.”
“Sure you can!” Nancy insisted. “We’ll have your foot free in a minute.”
“The show is wrecked!” I was shaking. “I looked so stupid!”
“Hey, if I can play Bert, you can get yourself up and go on with the song,” Nancy reminded me.
She and Cathy agreed. The show must go on.
“There!” Cathy grabbed the hem of the dress and ripped it off. I could now stand.
“The dress is ruined!” I protested.
“Back to the show!” Cathy prodded me, while Nancy grabbed my arm. We entered back through the garage door to the patient audience.
Everyone clapped and clapped as we started singing, and dancing, again.
We raised $35 for our charity.