Chimney sweep Dawson among unsung heroes of Mary Poppins cast

The unsung heroes of Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins are the chimney sweeps, a group of young performers who move dozens of set pieces and props while seamlessly changing scenes from the rooftops of London to the park or the Banks family’s parlour.

The sweeps keep the action moving before stopping the show with their high-energy dance number, “Step in Time.”

One of the sweeps is Jada Dawson, a Grade 11 student from Jarvis who is thrilled to bring the beloved Disney film version to the Port Dover stage from Nov. 22 to 25.

“Because it’s a classic and all of the songs are so much fun, it’s been enjoyable for me, and I think it has been for other people too, because it’s for everyone,” Dawson said.

“The cast is all phenomenal — very talented, and also very nice and caring people. And the show itself, it’s so much fun, and there’s never a dull moment.”

Mary Poppins, featuring 23 performers from Norfolk and Haldimand, is back at Lighthouse by popular demand, on the heels of a sold-out 11-show run in the spring.

Between her school work, student council, high school extracurriculars and a part-time job, it’s a wonder Dawson can spare the 10 to 12 hours of weekly rehearsal time it takes to prepare a big musical production like Mary Poppins. But the busy performer says being onstage is well worth the extra effort.

“Because I love theatre so much, it’s completely worth it to make the drive out and to do it, because there’s no regrets,” Dawson said. “No matter what, I know I’m going to have a good time, and I’m doing this to better myself, and to try new things.”

A regular in the Lighthouse Young Company summer theatre program, Dawson first joined the community show cast for last year’s production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. She loves being part of a close-knit group and seeing her abilities as a performer grow under the guidance of Lighthouse artistic director Derek Ritschel and the theatre’s professional production team.

“All the staff that work there, there’s no negativity — it’s a positive atmosphere,” Dawson said. “I had confidence, but these past two shows have really helped me to break out of the awkward, ‘Oh, are they going to judge me for it?’ There’s no judgment; and when you know other people enjoy watching it, it’s just an all-around good experience.”

Dawson encourages Haldimand residents to take a drive down to Port Dover and see Mary Poppins live onstage.

“Lighthouse is kind of in the general area, so it’s not an overly long drive from anywhere,” she said. “People know the storyline, but it’s just so much cooler to see it live.”

This article was first published in The Sachem and at