Mary Poppins Monday: Cast Reflections

Our big spring production is on our stage– Mary Poppins– and that means a blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

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The cast of The rep’s production of Mary Poppins. Photo by Stephen Thornton.

Our dramaturg Robert Neblett asked the cast to reflect upon why this story, Disney’s film, and the title character are important to them, and here is what they had to say:

Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins)

Disney’s Mary Poppins means childhood, keeping on the straight and narrow, respect and love for authority, trust in your elders, joy, delight, wonder and the magic of one’s imagination.

When I was a little girl I fell in love with the film because it was real, not animated, and it was magical. There was truth I could grasp as well as just enough wonder for me to dream of more. As I grew into my teens I began to follow and admire Julie Andrews and fell in love with the film again, this time because of her ease and perfection in the role. I fell in the love with the film a third time when I was auditioning for the Broadway show. This time it was because I identified so closely with Mary. I loved children and had been a nanny, who came and went and fell in love with families, many times! As an adult, well, what can I say? This incredible, heartfelt and moving story has literally changed the course of my life. It has impacted it such that I will never be the same in so many glorious ways.

Rachel Perlman (Ensemble)

Mary Poppins means believing in the ability to find magic in anything that is seemingly ordinary and using your imagination to enhance or escape reality. It also means remembering the importance of the family/father-children relationship, and the balance of indulgence and discipline in a loving, healthy, happy home. I first saw the film when I was 6 years old, and it was always one of my favorites because it spoke so much to me about embracing my imagination (including being able to break into song and dance in any situation and setting choreography to “Jolly Holiday” and “Step In Time” on my younger sisters). Its lasting impact also includes finding “magic” in every day tasks, bravery to stand up for what I believe in, and understanding my father, who often reminded me of Mr. Banks.

Corey West (Ensemble)

I remember watching the film as a kid and thinking how great it was to really be able to use your imagination. It can take you anywhere you want to go! It was my first introduction to Musical Theatre. It was one of the movies that drove me to the conclusion that this is what I wanted to do as a career.

Stephen K. Stone (Ensemble)

The idea that it’s not about what others can do for you, it’s about what you can do for others. This is especially clear in the movie when Mary and the bird umbrella handle are talking just before her departure when the Banks family have left to fly a kite. As a kid, my primary memory of the film is the word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” as well as the concept of a spoonful of sugar helping medicine go down. As an adult, I find the dichotomy of Mrs. Banks being a suffragette while being typically conceding to Mr. Banks when inside the household to be interesting both in terms of this possibility having been typical of the era, and/or did this have other effects upon marriages of the time. I am so looking forward to performing “Step in Time” and these amazing songs!

Chris Shin (Ensemble)

Disney’s Mary Poppins means a lot to me. For some reason, anything Disney related seemed “fancy” to me. It really was one of those movies that encouraged my wild childhood imagination. I loved that it didn’t take place in America. In terms of lasting impact, I had a wild imagination as a child and liked to make up games. Seeing the movie definitely encouraged my imagination. To this day, I just loved seeing those chimney sweeps in “Step in Time” and the community that they are together.

Thomas Cooper (Admiral Boom/Chairman)

I can’t remember when I first saw Mary Poppins as a child, but I do remember being enchanted by the animated characters interaction with live characters in the film. I also remember being touched by the song and message of “Feed the Birds,” even though at that time I couldn’t completely understand its full meaning. As an adult I have beautiful memories of my oldest son, now twenty-five years old, as a toddler dancing like a Hottentot on top of the couch to “Step in Time” with the rest of the chimney sweeps.

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From left: Addison Dowdy (Jane), Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins), Madison Stolzer (Michael) and Monica Clark-Robinson (Bird Woman). Photo by Stephen Thornton.

Monica Clark-Robinson (Bird Woman and Mrs. Brill)

I’m feeling whimsical, so I decided to answer you with an acrostic poem:

Many nights, snuggled under blankets, eyes glued to the perfection of

Andrews, Dame Julie Andrews.

Really, need one say more?

Yearning to fly kites and jump into chalk pictures with her,

Perhaps even wanting to BE her.

Often, I would sing into a hairbrush at my dollar store mirror, imagining I was

Practically Perfect in Every Way.

People grow up, sadly, and brushes become just brushes.

I continued to sing, though–“Feed the Birds,”

Night after night to my sleepy-headed child

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, indeed.

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Karen Q. Banks (Winifred Banks). Photo by Stephen Thornton.

Karen Q. Clark (Mrs. Banks)

What Mary Poppins means to me: Joy, imagination, beautiful, playful singing. Being together is more important than being stuffy. As an adult, I see the idea that family trumps a job. There are costs in life that are not monetary, and they can be more dear. I remember seeing the film as a little girl – probably aired on TV. I learned many of the songs and remember them to this day. I believe a number of the songs have become general knowledge. I remember the white and red dress Mary wore, and jumping into paintings. Loved the penguins.

Grace and Corbin Pitts (Jane and Michael Understudies), c/o Christen Pitts

Mary Poppins is the first Broadway show that Grace and Corbin ever saw (Corbin was 6 and Grace was 8). They loved the lights, set, costumes, energy, excitement, choreography, music, etc! We had a friend in the show and they got to go backstage and also had the opportunity to meet some of the cast members. They got to walk around the set and see some of the props. It was a magical moment for them! They got to visit with the children who played Jane and Michael. It is so cool that they now get to work together as real life brother and sister with some of the same people who were in the Broadway production that they saw! Grace and Corbin saw the film last year, but saw the Broadway show before they saw the movie. The lasting impact is the magic of live theatre!

They sing “The Perfect Nanny” together all the time at home! Grace got to learn some of the choreography for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” at a workshop with one of the Broadway cast members. They love the music in the show!

Tom Souhrada (Mr. Banks)

Mary Poppins has occupied a special place in my heart since I was a little kid. The story, the characters and, of course, all the wonderful songs have inspired me and brought me so much joy. Mary Poppins was the very first movie I ever saw. My parents took me and my two sisters to a Saturday matinee and my world was changed. I absolutely fell head over heels for Julie Andrews. When we got the album my sisters and I would listen to it for hours on end, memorizing every note and word. In fact we would put on little backyard versions of the movie playing all the characters. So I guess it inspired me to become a performer, in a way. It remains one of my very favorite films. I was fortunate enough to work with the original Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews herself, on the National Tour of The Boy Friend. An experience I will never forget. My favorite song in the show is “Feed The Birds.” With its soaring melody and beautiful message, it never fails to touch my heart.

Hannah Eakin (Ensemble/Mary Poppins Understudy)

What Mary Poppins means to me: Family, nostalgia, inspiration, joy. I first saw it when I was a little girl, before I can even remember. It was one of those movies that first instilled in me a love of music and theatre, and I truly believe it is a huge reason for why I am an actress today. “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” speaks to me most, because I remember literally going to fly a kite with my father and brothers and singing that song with them, all boisterous and uninhibited. To me, that song is symbolic of the joy of childhood, and of the way that joy can remain with us, long after we have grown up.

Michael Milkanin (Ensemble/Herr Von Hussler)

Mary Poppins is a Disney classic, and a childhood staple. It is a glimpse of whimsy in our world of chaotic reality. I don’t remember when I first saw the film. But I do remember watching “A Spoonful of Sugar” as part of my Disney sing-along VHS. I always loved Julie Andrews being sassy to her reflection and sing to fake birds. I also remember the magic of Disney and how much influence they have to encourage creativity in children. That moment during “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” of leaving your cares behind to be with the ones you love is something that has always spoken to me!

Burt Durocher (Robertson Ay)

To me Mary Poppins exists in that intangible moment where magic seems to seep into real life. Where, as is said in the show, anything can happen if you simply open your eyes to the possibilities and allow it to happen. I can’t recall exactly when I first saw the film – sometime when I was very young. The thing I remember liking most were all the scenes with Dick van Dyke; there was a mischievous twinkle in his eye that made you want to be his best friend. I especially loved learning that Dick insisted on also playing Mr. Dawes (I think the story goes he had to pay Disney to be allowed to do the part!). This, I’m sure, was an early lesson in the fun you can have as an actor…moving seamlessly from one character to another.

The moment that always makes me well up a little is the idea of saying au revoir, but not goodbye (perhaps it’s my French-Canadian roots.) Much like when a cast of actors disbands after a show, though you know you’ll probably see each other again, there’s no saying when. The idea of saying goodbye is simply too painful, so we part with the promise of another meeting. I can’t think of anything more bitter-sweetly human then that.

Paul Thiemann (Ensemble/Mr. Northbrook)

Honestly, as a kid Mary Poppins was just a fun movie that taught me if I could laugh hard enough I would float up by the ceiling. Later in life, especially after seeing Saving Mr. Banks, the movie has more depth and meaning to me. It is a beautiful fairy tale about redemption, family, and how to find joy in everyday events and relationships. I first saw the movie when I was a kid growing up in the mid 90’s. I remember watching the scene with Dick Van Dyke playing all the different instruments and thinking, “That looks fun! I want to do something like that.” The moment in the film when Bert talks about feeling sorry for Mr. Banks is such a beautiful moment. It reminds us the importance of seeing things from a different point of view. It shows us how to understand other people’s situations and how they influence their actions. It was one of the first lessons of empathy many kids got growing up.

Pulled from the Mary Poppins study guide, prepared by Robert Neblett.

Check back every Monday to uncover a new aspect of this magical production and get your tickets to our biggest show ever by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visiting TheRep.org!