How to Make Moana JR. Your Own

Moana JR. celebrates the rich stories of Oceania and is based on the collective history, folklore, and mythology of the cultures and peoples of the Pacific Islands.

In creating the original film, the producers at Disney Animation formed an Oceanic Trust. This group of anthropologists, cultural practitioners, historians, linguists, and choreographers from islands including Samoa, Tahiti, Mo’orea, and Fiji was integral in the creation of the film, providing feedback and notes on character design, song lyrics, and the depiction of culture onscreen. This respect and careful attention to detail was carried forward in the creation of Moana JR. for the stage. We encourage you to involve the Pacific Islander community in your area and to use the show as an opportunity to educate and engage your cast and audience alike in learning about Oceanic culture.

New York Charter School of the Arts (New York, NY)

When designing props for Moana JR., avoid using Western elements and themes, such as colonial ships, flags, coins, pirates’ treasure, nautical décor, and compasses. Look instead to materials and objects found in nature, and which reflect wayfinding, the ancient Oceanic method of navigation and exploration.


“In creating the original film, the producers at Disney Animation formed an Oceanic Trust…This respect and careful attention to detail was carried forward in the creation of Moana JR. for the stage.”



Theatre 360 (Pasadena, CA)

It is important to keep in mind that Moana JR. is set in ancient Oceania before the discovery of Hawai’i. Though Motunui is a fictional island, it is inspired by the actual cultures and peoples of the Pacific Islands. As such, elements like synthetic grass skirts, coconut bras, leis, and Hawaiian prints should be avoided in favor of handmade, organic, and found materials and natural-looking fabrics. Additionally, specific cultural references, such as ceremonial dress, including Moana’s red tuiga headdress from the animated film’s final scene should not be used.

To be respectful of Oceanic culture, avoid any design that utilizes elements that are closely associated with 1950s Hawaiian “tiki” aesthetics, such as tiki carvings and luaus, and use restraint when incorporating floral motifs. Furthermore, we encourage you to involve the Pacific Islander community in your area and to use the show as an opportunity to educate and engage your cast and audience alike in learning about Oceanic culture.

Maui’s tattoos, which are an important part of the Disney animated film, have been removed from this adaptation so that this character’s integrity remains intact across all productions. Tattoos are an earned, sacred part of Pacific Islander culture and should not be worn by any non-Pacific Islander as part of a costume; under no circumstances should your actor wear any tattoos.

Costume research can be a fun way to continue your education on Pacific Island communities; have students look into traditional clothing of these islands for creative ideas. For example, tapa cloth, made from the bark of a mulberry tree and easily dyed, is traditionally used to make clothing, mats, and sails.

New York Charter School of the Arts (New York, NY)

An adventure story set in Oceania (also known as the Pacific Ocean and the islands within it), Moana JR. showcases some quintessential features of that region – a village, islands, and the ocean – as well some fictional settings, such as the Realm of Monsters and Tamatoa’s lair. The design of Moana JR. should be minimalistic, reflecting a “handmade” quality that feels organic to the story.

Rather than construct elaborate scenery to create these locations realistically, use simple set pieces to suggest each location – a lot can be achieved in this show with backdrops and basic set pieces. This will also keep the focus on your young performers, and transitions will be quick and seamless with your actors helping to carry on any necessary set pieces.

“We believe that musicals allow young people to engage with stories, characters, cultures, and communities they might not otherwise be exposed to.”

Remind the cast that Moana JR. draws inspiration from Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. Before facilitating this rehearsal exercise, watch the “Polynesian Dance Demonstration” video provided below and with the Choreography Videos in your Moana JR. ShowKit®.

If you do not have a background in Polynesian dance, consider bringing in an expert to facilitate a masterclass with your actors and choreographer to further expand their knowledge of this art form.

As with all Disney shows, we encourage casting that represents your community. Your production will benefit from a cast that includes a variety of races, genders, abilities, and body types, so approach your casting process with care and an open mind. Musicals allow young people to engage with stories, characters, cultures, and communities they might not otherwise be exposed to, and that all young people should have the opportunity to engage with every story. The Director’s Guide provided in the ShowKit® offers important guidelines for your production to ensure that you are celebrating Oceanic culture in a respectful manner.

What Show is Right for My Community?

From ancient oasis cities to African savannahs, from London to Chicago, from swimming under the sea to flying through the clouds, all kinds of Disney magic is waiting to unfold… on your stage! Are you wondering how to select the best show for your community from all these extraordinary stories?

Here are a few tips to help you make your decision.

What Message Do I Want To Send To My Community?

This question is essential not only for selecting a show, but also for expanding a creative vision. Keep this question in mind as you consider the following points.

Subject Matters and Themes

Think about what you want to discuss with your cast?

The Lion King examines the significance of family and courage; Newsies discusses the power of young people in expediting social change; Hunchback of Notre Dame explores faith and morality…While each show has a different setting and story, they all have multi-layered themes for your community to dive into.


When picking a show, Consider the length of your show, picking the length that will make your cast shine.

Are you working with high school students or a community group who has done several musicals? Check out our Full-Length titles!

Is your cast not quite ready for a full length but eager for a longer show? Our One-Act shows are perfect for this!

Is the best option for your cast, a 60-minute JR. show? [We typically suggest this for middle schools or for high schools trying out their first musical.]

Should you consider a 30-minute KIDS show? [This is often suggested for elementary school students or middle schools new to musicals.]

It is also important to consider the cast size, gender-flexibility and vocal and dance requirements of your show.

Technical Requirements

It takes different stage technology to make different stories come to life. However, all shows can be made fascinating by creative problem-solving. Thinking outside the box is always encouraged when you produce your show.

For example, here are some different ways to make Mary Poppins fly. Have fun with realizing magic onstage with the resources you have!


How many performances do you plan to offer your community? This number may vary depending on the size of your community, the size of your theatre, and your ticket price.  All of these are important to think about when planning your performance schedule.

Skillset, Knowledge and Engagement Opportunities

What skills does your community want to develop by producing this show? Consider which show lets your community experience something new. With all shows comes a variety of opportunities for community engagement, both onstage and offstage.

Ultimately, with a strong creative vision, you can make any show work! Imagination and collaboration are the key to success.

Tips for First-Time Directors

It’s your first show! Directing for the stage is always a thrilling adventure and putting together a show with your community is no small feat. So we have a few tips on infusing some extra Disney magic into your exciting journey.

Durant Road’s Cast of Mary Poppins JR.

Keep An Open Mind!

Be open to spontaneous ideas from your team, especially on challenging elements of the show.

A production usually has only one director, but a creative vision is hardly achieved alone. Ask your cast and crew to share their thoughts! Besides the benefit of having fresh perspectives, listening to ideas from your team is a great way to make them feel involved.

Possibilities In The Rehearsal Room

The cast of Aladdin JR backstage at Woodruff Middle School
Making actors feel comfortable in the rehearsal room help them shine their brightest onstage.

Meet with actors individually or in small groups to discuss each character’s backstory, motivations, and relations to each other. All characters are important to the world of the play, so encourage every student to understand their character thoroughly.

Rehearsal exercises are also a great way to help your actors get into character! Conduct vocal, acting or physical warm-ups inspired by themes from the show with help from your ShowKit. Let your actors experiment freely with their performance while ensuring safety.

To keep actors engaged during rehearsal when they are not involved in a scene, set up a station for collaborative tasks, such as painting show posters.

It Takes A Village…

The cast of Newsies at Jesuit High School learning how to get into character.
Your show can be a community-wide learning opportunity!

Form an committee that involves a variety of individuals who can touch on multiple aspects of the show, invite guests to rehearsal to give lectures or lead exercises in areas of their expertise, or organize a small “preview” for production staff before opening night to help actors get used to performing in front of an audience.

Expanding The Influence of Your Show

Meaningful conversations don’t have to stop after the show closes!

Bring the show into your community. If you produce Frozen JR., look into starting an environmental awareness initiative. If produce Freaky Friday, find a way to celebrate mother-daughter stories in your community.

For additional community engagement ideas, see 5 Ways to Use Theatre to Engage Your Entire School Community


For additional rehearsal exercise and research topics for your show, refer to your Showkit.

The Different Sides of Elsa

Frozen JR. features three iterations of the austere future Queen of Arendelle, and there are a myriad of ways you can achieve her signature looks cohesively amongst the three actors you cast as Young, Middle, and adult Elsa.

Start with similar, richly adorned, regal looks for each and consider dressing your actors in shades of royal purples and blues. For the younger princesses, research Norweigan bunads – richly adorned traditional dresses still worn today. Though not required, the eldest Elsa might don a crown for the coronation scene and, later, change into an “icier” for the showstopping “Let It Go.”

Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School (Oak Park, IL)


Each Elsa will also need a pair of gloves, given to her by her mother to help her control her powers. Elsa’s official gloves will soon be available at, or create your own pair to match your production’s costume palette.

Brooklyn Children’s Theatre (Brooklyn, NY)


Cautious and conventional, Elsa may wear her hair pinned back for the coronation before “letting it go” loose later in the play. As with all young performers, styling the actor’s own hair works best. Though portrayed with silvery-blonde hair in the animated movie, there is nothing written into the script that indicates it is a necessity for Elsa. Have fun working with your own actor to find the various ways her magical powers can be embodied.

And most importantly – have fun costuming this wonderfully complex and rich character!


Jeter Backyard Theater (Gibsonia, PA)


Creating the World of Agrabah in ‘Aladdin JR.’

Aladdin JR. features four main settings:

Agrabah’s Marketplace
The Royal Palace
Jasmine’s balcony
Cave of Wonders

Rather than constructing elaborate scenery to create these locations realistically, use simple set pieces to suggest each location – a lot can be achieved in this show with colorful stretches of fabric. This will also keep the focus on your young performers, and transitions will be quick and seamless, with your actors helping to carry on and off any necessary set pieces.

If resources are limited, consider creating your sets with a series of rehearsal cubes that can be stacked or pushed together to create levels for ensemble numbers as well as more distinct set pieces, such as the windowsill in Jasmine’s balcony. Below are some ideas to get you started on your design.

Use simple props such as baskets of fruit, jewelry, and other colorful wares, as well as draped fabric of various vibrant tones and textures, to create the look of Agrabah’s bustling bazaar. For your vendors and other shop owners, consider using trays to exhibit their goods – even an actor’s arm can be used to display long, sparkly jewelry! Aladdin’s hovel can be in a tucked-away area of the market or a corner of your stage and can be made from rehearsal cubes draped in fabric or a simple lean-to. Should you decide to build any set pieces, consider how they might be rotated to reveal another location, like the palace or the Cave of Wonders, on the other side.

Ellicott Mills Middle School (Ellicott City MD)


As with the marketplace, use simple props and fabrics to distinguish the Sultan and Jasmine’s royal home. Since the market will be full of vibrant colors, employ a more refined color scheme of whites and silvers – perhaps with dashes of royal blue or purple – to help differentiate this regal setting. If you have the resources, a palace backdrop can be employed here as well. While there are no set pieces needed for this location, you might consider creating a royal throne – perhaps out of stacked rehearsal cubes – that can double as an effective way to conceal Jafar’s demise as he’s sucked into the lamp at the end of the show.

The Cave of Wonders
When designing this mysterious location, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, there’s no need to construct a desert setting for the journey to the cave – your actors can simply cross a bare stage (perhaps in front of the stage curtain, if you have one). Next, be sure to create a designated entrance that Aladdin can crawl through to enter and exit the cave, which can be cleared to reveal the trove of treasures inside. (Refer to the Choreography DVD for an example of how to construct the cave using fabric.) If you decide to use a stage curtain, a partially open traveler (or curtain that opens by parting in the middle) can act as the cave’s entrance, which then can be opened fully to expose the inside of the cave once Aladdin crawls through. This also allows for a sneaky set change as you transition from the desert to the cave. To create a look of luxurious riches inside, stack boxes covered in gold wrapping paper throughout the space and consider draping them with jewels. For an even more opulent look, you might drape gold lamé fabric throughout or hang a gold backdrop. No matter how detailed your design, remember to leave lots of open space for the big production number!

Hurrah Players (Norfolk, VA)


Jasmine’s Balcony
For this corner of the palace, all you’ll need is the window sill or balcony railing that can conceal a magic carpet positioned behind it. One way to create this effect is to use your stage curtain which, when only partially open, can frame the balcony set piece like a large window frame – the curtain can then be pulled open and the balcony railing slid offstage to reveal the magic carpet.

Ellicott Mills Middle School (Ellicott City MD)


Magic Carpet
When constructing your magic carpet, consider how you intend for it to fly. There are many simple ways to give the impression of flying without lifting anyone off the ground. One example is to drape a length of fabric over two rehearsal blocks placed next to each other, upon which your actors can sit. Four actors dressed in black can gently shake the corners of the fabric to create the illusion of flying.

For a more theatrical approach, a dancer can represent the carpet with a long, flowing fabric as your actors stand and sing out to the audience. In this interpretation, two actors can split the window sill, clearing it from the stage for the carpet to “fly” through open space and then bring it back together at the end of the number. To establish the night sky in “A Whole New World,” use twinkly lights, small flash lights, or battery-operated tea lights. Think about how you can incorporate your ensemble into the blocking and design of this number to help generate the magic as well as the atmosphere. For example, your ensemble can move through the space with the lights, giving the impression that the carpet is in motion.

Ellicott Mills Middle School (Ellicott City MD)


When Art Resembles Life: Exploring the Themes of ‘The Hunchback Of Notre Dame’

My decision to produce The Hunchback of Notre Dame with my students was driven as much by the life lessons they could learn from the story as it was by the opportunity it would give them to grow as artists. I consider it my responsibility to develop my students into empathetic and thoughtful young people who understand the power they have and the impact they can have on others. Hunchback provided the perfect training ground to help them discover how they can use the forces of their own human nature to bring about either oppression and abuse or justice and compassion.

On day one of rehearsal, we began exploring the reasons why this story needed to be told in our community. Why us? Why now? This sparked a lot of conversation about my students’ daily experiences of bullying and social pressures that come from an age of constant social media intrusion. I discovered that themes like abuse of power, social exclusion, and prejudicial harassment were all too familiar to these teenagers; they experience them right in the palms of their hands multiple times a day. It wasn’t long before the cast started making clear connections between their own world and that of Paris in 1482.


“It wasn’t long before the cast started making clear connections between their own world and that of Paris in 1482.”


The students’ connections to the story became even more personal when we turned the discussion towards that which “must remain hidden,” in the words of Frollo. I asked the students to break into small groups to discuss aspects of themselves that they keep “hidden in a bell tower.” This simple but challenging exercise struck a chord for the cast. They suddenly connected, on a particularly intimate level, to the personal suppression and systematic oppression that each character in Hunchback battles with in their own way. When reflecting back on his experience, the actor playing Quasimodo explained, “The thing that clicked the most was finding something in myself that I find ‘monstrous’ and something I hide away. I was then able to create an authentic character by completely putting myself in his shoes.”

By the end of our first meeting, the cast had created their own mission statement that would drive the rest of our process: “We are doing this show because we want to become united in our acceptance of ourselves and those around us.”  This statement stayed posted in our rehearsal and performance spaces until the end of the run, ultimately setting the tone for every rehearsal, meeting, and performance.

Floyd Central High School (Floyds Knobs, IN)


Perhaps one of the most difficult characters for a teenager to break into is Frollo. Guilt driven, sexually suppressed, abusive, and bigoted, Frollo is truly scary because he is so truly human. Yet the challenging work of unpacking Frollo, and ultimately empathizing with him in spite of his monstrous actions, might just be one of the most important tasks I have ever asked a student to take on. With the #MeToo Movement gaining momentum during our rehearsal process, the need to understand the Archdeacon took on particular relevance.

I was fortunate to have a very thoughtful student in the role of Frollo. Through lots of discussion, the actor who played Frollo and I discovered the eerily simple factors in Frollo’s life that enabled his hatred and self-justification: a genuine love for his brother, a sense of obligation to a church that saved him from poverty, and a position of ungoverned authority. Discovering how easy it was for Frollo to reach a point where he could use his power to manipulate and abuse Esmeralda was particularly scary to the actor who played him in light of the abuses the #MeToo Movement was exposing each day. Frightening as it was for him to see how easily a man can turn into a monster, I believe the experience of playing Frollo will serve him well as he journeys into adulthood. I see a great deal of self-awareness in this student and a desire to treat others with dignity, both strengthened by his time on stage in Frollo’s shoes.

While our program trains many students for successful careers in theatre and other industries, it is most important to me that the success they have as professional adults be part and parcel with a positive impact on their respective fields. If I develop skilled theatre practitioners who are successful only in so much as they get lots of work but leave the world the way they found it, then I have failed as an educator. Stories like The Hunchback of Notre Dame are essential to preparing my students to go into the world and make it better.


“Indeed, the world will be kinder and love will be blinder if more kids are exposed to thoughtful Theatre Education, especially through shows like The Hunchback of Notre Dame.


In the midst of our run, we witnessed the horror of the Stoneman Douglas shooting coupled with the heroism of Thespians from that wounded school who were conscious of their power and began to wield it to bring about positive change in our nation. Cell phones and social media, the same weapons of division that my students recognized on day one as central to their own experiences of hatred, began to be used by their own peers to propel a movement of peace and justice. As we closed our show amid a week of intruder drills and Snapchat threats to our school district, I found a sense of hope knowing that my students had learned two things while producing Hunchback: that they have power and that the dreams of “someday” can come about today if they wield that strength for the good of themselves and others. Indeed, the world will be kinder and love will be blinder if more kids are exposed to thoughtful Theatre Education, especially through shows like The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Floyd Central High School (Floyds Knobs, IN)


Robbie Steiner is the Director of Theatre Arts at Floyd Central High School in southern Indiana. Under his direction, Floyd Central has been recognized as the “Best Theatre School in the Midwest” by Stage Directions Magazine and was honored with the Outstanding School Award by the Educational Theatre Association in 2017. He currently serves on the Teacher Advisory Council at Actors Theatre of Louisville. His work has been featured on the Main Stage at the International Thespian Festival, where Floyd Central’s production of Disney’s Newsies will be presented this summer. Robbie is a graduate of Indiana University.

‘Hunchback Of Notre Dame’ Production Handbook Annotated Bibliography

Below is a list of resources to get you and your cast started in exploring the world of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Consider encouraging your actors and designers to do further research on the topics they are most interested in or that best relate to their characters or roles in the production.



“Catechism of the Catholic Church” : A complete list of the catechisms of the Church compiled by the Vatican.

“The Catholic Encyclopedia” : New Advent, the largest Catholic website in the world, offers the “full and authoritative information on the entire cycle of Catholic interests, action, and doctrine.”


Court of Miracles

“Cours des Miracles” : A short description of the 17th Century Court of Miracles.



Everybody Belongs: Changing Negative Attitudes Toward Classmates with Disabilities: Arthur Shaprio’s book, published by Routledge in 2000, explains how familiar childhood characters like Captain Hook and Porky Pig shape attitudes toward disability. He offers practical guidance to schools that are wrestling with how to integrate children with disabilities.

National Center on Disability and Journalism Disability Style Guide:
This style guide will lead you to the appropriate language to use when discussing disability with your cast.

A Social History of Disability in the Middle Ages: Cultural Considerations of Physical Impairment: This book by Irina Metzler, published by Routledge in 2015, discusses what it was like to be disabled in the Middle Ages.

Stumbling Blocks Before the Blind: Medieval Constructions of a Disability: Edward Wheatley’s book, published by University of Michigan Press in 2010, explores French practices and institutions that led to the commodification of human sight and inhumane satire against the blind in French literature.


The Hunchback of Notre Dame on Stage & Screen

The Art of The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Written by Stephen Rebello and featuring art from the Disney animated film, this 1996 book traces the history of the movie and shines light on the animation process.

“Bells Are Ringing” : Ellen Lampert-Greaux’s 1999 article from Live Design magazine profiles the technical elements of Der Glöckner von Notre Dame.

Stephen Schwartz Comments on Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame : A collection of questions posted on Stephen Schwartz’s online forum about The Hunchback of Notre Dame, with answers by Schwartz.


Notre Dame Cathedral

“The bells, the bells…! Why Notre Dame is ringing the changes” : A succinct history of the bells of Notre Dame from the Independent.

“Facts on the Notre Dame Cathedral in France” : A short history of the cathedral from construction to restoration from USA Today.

“Gravely Gorgeous: Gargoyles, Grotesques & the Nineteenth-Century Imagination” : Part of Cornell University’s architectural photograph collection, this site explores Gothic architecture, including Notre Dame’s gargoyles and chimera.

“New Bells Restore Old Harmony” : An article from Deutsche Welle detailing the replacement of Notre Dame’s bells for its 850th anniversary.

Notre-Dame de Paris : Notre Dame’s official website which includes historical information about the cathedral.

The Victorian Web : An overview, with images, of the architectural work completed during the 1845-1864 restoration of the cathedral.


Paris in the Middle Ages

Paris: The Biography of a City: Colin Jones’s illuminating history, published by Penguin Books in 2006, offers a comprehensive and colorful look at the French capital, including its time during the Middle Ages.

Paris in the Middle Ages: Published by University of Pennsylvania Press in 2009, this book by Simone Roux and translated by Jo Ann McNamara chronicles the lives of Parisians as the city grew from a military stronghold in 1214 to a city recovering from the Black Death of the 1390s.

Women and Power in the Middle Ages: Published by University of Georgia Press in 2004, editor Mary C. Erler compiled a collection of essays that explore the power and activism of medieval women.



The Gypsies: Angus Fraser’s 1995 book, published by Wiley Blackwell, provides an in-depth study of the diaspora and history of Roma in Europe until the end of Communism. : Romani author Ronald Lee’s website provides articles about Roma by Romani authors, as well as music, publications, and links to useful other websites.

We Are the Romani People: Written by Romani author and scholar Ian Hancock, this book, published by University of Hertfordshire Press in 2002, offers an excellent introduction on the origin, history, diaspora, language, and customs of the Roma.



Sanctuary and Crime in the Middle Ages: Karl Shoemaker’s book, published by Fordham University Press in 2011, explores sanctuary law’s foundations in late antiquity and emergence in the early Middle Ages.

“What Are Sanctuary Cities?” : This 2017 New York Times article maps jurisdictions in the U.S. that act as “sanctuary cities.”

“What It Was Like to Seek Asylum in Medieval England” : This 2015 Slate article by Eric Grundhauser offers a fascinating and concise history of sanctuary law.


Stage Combat

Society of American Fight Directors: The Society of American Fight Directors is an internationally recognized organization dedicated to promoting safety and excellence in the craft of stage combat. Contact your SAFD region representative for training opportunities or hire one of their certified teachers to help design your combat sequences.


Story Theater

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby: The Royal Shakespeare Company’s legendary 1980 stage production of Charles Dickens’s classic, released on DVD in 2002, is one of the most famous examples of the story theater form.

Paul Sills’ Story Theater: Four Shows: This volume, published by Applause in 2000, includes the chapters “Designing for Story Theater,” “Music Notes for Story Theater,” and “Theater Games for Story Theater” (created by Sills’s mother, Viola Spolin).

Story Theatre: This 2015 article by Rosalind Flynn on details the history and conventions of the theater form.

Story Theatre: Another famous example of story theater, this play by Paul Sills with music, published by Samuel French, was adapted from famous fables from the Brothers Grimm and Aesop. The 1970 Broadway production featured a cast of eight actors performing a total of 66 speaking roles, ensemble roles, and sound effects while assisting with – and performing as – set pieces.


Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris

“The Gothic Revival in France, 1830–1845: Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris, Popular Imagery, and a National Patrimony Discovered”: An essay by Julie Lawrence Cochran on the impact of the images from Hugo’s novel on French views on architecture, from the 1999 anthology Memory & Oblivion.

“How a Novel Saved Notre Dame and Changed Perceptions of Gothic Architecture” : Architect Richard Buday’s article in ArchDaily describes the relationship between the cathedral and the novel.

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame: Released in 2002, Catherine Liu’s new translation includes sections of the novel traditionally omitted from English translations as well as an introduction by Elizabeth McCracken.

Notre-Dame de Paris: The Cathedral in the Book”: A journal article from the Winter-Spring 1985 issue of Nineteenth-Century French Studies by Illinca M. Zarifopol-Johnston that provides a literary analysis of Hugo’s use of the cathedral in the novel.

How to Make Mary Poppins Fly

One of Mary Poppins’s mysterious and fascinating qualities is her ability to fly using her parrot-handled umbrella. There are many theatrical ways to achieve this that do not require hiring flying specialists, rigging wires, or breaking the budget. Remember, flying can be symbolic; there’s no need to be literal. Let’s explore!


“There are an endless number of ways to portray flying onstage, many of which have been around for hundreds of years.”


Imaginative Approaches to Flying

There are an endless number of ways to portray flying onstage, many of which have been around for hundreds of years. The Victorians used a see-saw, placing an actor on one end and then lowering the other side, creating the illusion of an actor rising magically. Mary could very simply stand on a rehearsal block to indicate flying. Or her silhouette could be cut from foam core and raised in the air to achieve the same effect. And there are myriad ways to portray flight with creative choreography. Every license of Mary Poppins JR. includes a ShowKit® of materials designed as a “Show-in-a-Box” – perfect for first time directors. ShowKit® contents include a Director’s Guide with staging tips and rehearsal strategies, a Choreography DVD – with select numbers fully staged. Below are specific DIY approaches to “flying” Mary Poppins.

Staging the Effects, or “Selling It”

The greatest effects are only as stirring as your actors’ use of them to tell the story. If your actors are comfortable and confident enough with the effects to make them look easy, natural, and in control, the audience will buy the trick every time. Allow plenty of rehearsal time for any magical moments in your show so that your actors can finesse any intricate moments and are able to perform them perfectly every time.


“Use your actors to create the sky – build handheld clouds on sticks and use creative blocking.”


“Chim Chim Cher-ee”

In Scene 9, during the song “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” Mary Poppins “exits into the sky.” A fun way to achieve this is by using your actors to create the sky. Build handheld clouds on sticks for five actors. Stage them to enter using movement evocative of scudding clouds, and have them surround Mary Poppins, concealing her from the audience with their cut-out clouds. In the meantime, Mary Poppins can exit (unseen by the audience). The clouds open up to reveal that Mary Poppins is gone.

“Let’s Go Fly a Kite”

This number is featured on the Choreography DVD in its entirety, so be sure to check it out to see how you can stage your ensemble to help create the magic. Using the Kite Flyers to manipulate the various kites onstage, you can make Mary Poppins appear from the sky by choreographing her to be revealed from behind a cluster of kites. See Choreography DVD excerpt, above.


“Mary could regally ascend up a staircase, rehearsal blocks, or various platforms so she can hit her iconic pose at the perfect moment in the music.”


“Anything Can Happen (Finale)”

Many of the tricks used in “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” can be altered and used in Mary’s final departure. Mary could regally ascend up a staircase, rehearsal blocks, or various platforms so she can hit her iconic pose at the perfect moment in the music, significantly higher than any other actor on stage. Staging her alone on an upstage center platform would be effective. Remember to always employ the use of spotters any time an actor ascends levels onstage. Your ensemble can not only hide the set pieces Mary is stepping upon, but provide an additional level of safety for Mary. If you have any additional tricks or theatrical enhancements – like special lighting, atmospheric effects (like stage haze), or handheld practicals (like twinkly lights or small beam flashlights) – this is the moment to use them. With help from your entire company, Mary’s final flight will be the most magical trick of all.

To be clear, under no circumstances should you or anyone in your organization try to theatrically fly an actor without a licensed professional on hand who is an expert in theatrical flying. Remember, if you’re stuck, ask your actors for ideas! You will be surprised at their clever and innovative suggestions! Using a little theatrical thinking and a lot of creativity, making Mary Poppins fly is simple, fun, and engaging for your entire cast.

Upcoming ‘Shakespeare in Love’ Productions around the US and Canada


11/23/17 – 12/17/17 Marin Theatre Company (Mill Valley, CA)
1/10/18 – 3/28/18 Asolo Repertory Theatre (Sarasota, FL)
1/13/18 – 2/10/18 South Coast Repertory (Costa Mesa, CA)
2/3/18 – 3/4/18 Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts (Smithtown, NY)
2/7/18 – 3/18/18 Orlando Shakespeare Theatre (Orlando,FL)
3/20/18 – 3/24/18 Saint John Theatre Company (Saint John, NB)
3/23/18 – 4/22/18 Austin Playhouse (Austin, TX)
4/4/18 – 4/22/18 Charleston Stage Company (Charleston, SC)
4/13/18 – 5/6/18 Omaha Community Playhouse (Omaha, NE)
4/25/18 – 5/20/18 Seattle Shakespeare Company (Seattle, WA)

Upcoming ‘Newsies’ Productions around the US and Canada


11/15/17 – 12/24/17  Phoenix Theatre (Phoenix, AZ)

11/24/17 – 12/10/17  Centenary Stage Company (Hackettstown, NJ)

11/28/17 – 12/17/17  Maltz Jupiter (Jupiter, FL)

12/1/17 – 12/16/17  Pioneer Theatre Co (Salt Lake City, UT)

12/6/17 – 12/31/17  Arts Centre of Costal Carolina (Hilton Head, SC)

12/7/17 – 12/23/17  Springer Opera House (Columbus, GA)

1/5/18 – 1/28/18  Village Theatre (Everett, WA)

3/1/18 – 4/15/18  Fireside Theatre (Ft. Atkinson, WI)

3/2/18 – 9/22/18  Chanhassen Dinner Theater (Chanhassen, MI)

3/15/18 – 6/17/18  Toby’s Dinner Theatre (Columbia, MD)

4/16/18 – 6/10/18  The Media Theatre (Media, PA)