By Pat Forrest

When Mary Poppins was released in 1964, viewers around the world were entranced by the magical nanny and the story of how she heals a family and wakes up its members to the beauty of life. The film went on to receive 13 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and won five, including Best Original Song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”

For a fresh take on this enchanting old favourite, don’t miss Paramount Live’s production this January. Paramount Live is a local non-profit youth theatre company dedicated to fostering an environment of growth, personal freedom, and understanding in young people aged 9-18 through theatre arts. Mary Poppins director Spencer Hari and many others volunteer their time to nurture the youth in their roles.

Hari says that he takes great pride in what the young actors are able achieve. “It’s the closest thing to a youth Broadway production that I have seen. Their dancing is amazing and their voices are beautiful. I push them hard and the end result is something that is very tight and profound,” he says.

Hari says that so many auditioned for the different roles that he actually has two entire casts of nannies, children of various ages, and mothers, resulting in two quite different interpretations of the story from night to night. A well-known actor and singer himself, Hari will take the stage as the father.

Everyone has a favourite Mary Poppins moment or song. For Hari, the moment is when, seemingly out of nowhere, Mary sings “Feed the Birds.” “It’s all about being kind and not judging people,” he says. “It’s such an important message.”

Mary Poppins plays at 7:30 pm January 7-9 and January 14-16 at the Paramount Theatre, 24 South Court Street. Tickets are $15 ($10 for those 10 and under). Call 344-LIVE or email