Mary Poppins Monday: All About Our Mary-Poppins Ice Cream

Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins) at Loblolly Creamery. Photo by John David Pittman.

Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins) at Loblolly Creamery. Photo by John David Pittman.

Better late than never!

Last up in our production series is highlighting something sweet: our special Mary Poppins-inspired ice cream from Loblolly Creamery!

For the second time this season, we partnered with Little Rock’s popular ice cream shop to create a special treat for patrons: sweet cream ice cream with brownie chunks. After Loblolly created this special concoction reminiscent of the magical chimney sweeps in the production, the next thing that was in order was naming it.

In February, we launched an Mary Poppins Ice Cream Naming Contest where we asked fans to submit names for the ice cream that incorporated The Rep name and showcased the flavor.

The response was overwhelming. We received more than 200 entries into the contest and as you can imagine, it was pretty difficult to narrow it down, but we did. Here are the top 5 that were chosen:

  1. Chim Chim Cher-REP, Anna-Lee Pittman
  2. Super Creamy Brownie-licious, Stephanie Hamling
  3. Chimney Sweet, Neena Grissom
  4. Brownie REPrise, Abby Barker
  5. REPialidocious, Lucy Speed
  6. BONUS: Hupp-Town Chunk You Up!, Catherine DiVito
Anna-Lee Pittman and her winning name Chim Chim Cher-REP!

Anna-Lee Pittman and her winning name Chim Chim Cher-REP!

After days of voting, Anna-Lee Pittman’s “Chim Chim Cher-REP” was crowned the coveted winner of the contest. She won a pint of the special flavor with her name on the carton and a pair of tickets to see Mary Poppins!

You still have time to enjoy this magical treat– the special ice cream is being sold at Loblolly Creamery, located inside the Green Corner Store, 1423 Main St., Suite D, Little Rock, and at The Rep through mid-April.

Don’t miss your chance to try this one-of-a-kind sweet treat celebrating our magical production and get your tickets to Mary Poppins online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405. The show ends Sunday, April 12.


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!


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.


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.


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!

Mary Poppins Monday: Mary Poppins Vets


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

A new production is on our stage– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

This week, we are taking a look at members of the cast are not new to the Mary Poppins musical. In fact, there are six members who have performed in a Mary Poppins production– either regionally, on the national tour or even on Broadway.

Here is a look at those who have been featured in other Mary Poppins productions:


Elizabeth DeRosa as Mary Poppins. Photo by John David Pittman.

Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins) was the understudy of Mary Poppins– where she performed numerous times in the title role– and an ensemble member in Mary Poppins on Broadway. Additionally, she was Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins at Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson, WI.

Tom Souhrada (George Banks)
appeared in the original production of Mary Poppins and had several roles, including Von Hussler, an ensemble member, Policeman and the George Banks understudy. Additionally, he was a part of the ensemble in the First National Tour of the show.

Q. Smith (Miss Andrew) was last seen on Broadway in Mary Poppins as Miss Andrew and in  the First National Tour of Mary Poppins, where she played a variety of roles over the course of three
years (Mrs. Corry, Bird Woman and Miss Andrew).

Brian Letendre (Bert) originated the role of Neleus and was an ensemble member in the original Broadway production of Mary Poppins. He was also an ensemble member in the First National Tour of Mary Poppins in 2009.

Christopher Shin (Ensemble) was a featured ensemble member in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins.

Tyler Foy (Ensemble/US Bert/Dance Captain) was a performer in the First National Tour of Mary Poppins.

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!

Mary Poppins Monday: Q&A with Set Designer Ken Goldstein

A new production is on our stage– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

Our Dramaturg Robert Neblett had a chance to talk with set designer Ken Goldstein– the man behind the fabulous set– about his design process, inspiration behind the Mary Poppins set, challenges, plus tons more!

Here is what he had to say:

Q: What attracts you to a piece of theatre like Mary Poppins?

A: Simply, I love telling stories. The story of Mary and the children has always been interesting to me, but the story and evolution of Mr. Banks has always warmed my heart!

By Stephen Thornton

By Stephen Thornton

Q: Where do you begin when you approach the design process for a show like Mary Poppins, especially when you have to confront the fact that audiences who grew up with the film have very specific expectations?  

A: I always start with the text no matter what I am designing. In terms of preconceived notions or expectations that come with a piece like MP, or anything that is present in our culture it becomes a bit more complicated. We will never recreate the movie…so while I try to respect the source material, I try to create a world where the audience is willing to put expectations aside…to hop on board with “our” Mary Poppins.

Q: How do you balance your own creative vision with the influence of the source material?

A: I think it is important to nod in the direction of the source, but truly, I try to take a fresh look at the story, at the characters, the environment, and the atmosphere of the world of the play, and serve that.


By Stephen Thornton

Q: Did you use any specific visual resources in creating the scenery for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre production?

A: I always do a lot of visual research—knowing the practical reality of our production, much of my research focused on the rhythm of Victorian and Edwardian city-scapes.

Q: Did you create a design statement that guided you through the process of creating the scenery for Mary Poppins? What was it?

A: ‘Design Statement’ is too formal to reflect my process. When I work in my studio, and the foundation of what I teach my students as the through line of the design process is one central question: What are you trying to do? In this case, my answer is to create a space that while fundamentally serving the action of each scene, allows the atmosphere and characters of this story come to life on stage and in the imagination of the audience.

Q: This is a fairly large show with many different locations. What is it like designing for a theatre space as intimate as The Reps, both in general and for this play in particular?

A: The intimacy is an advantage! I love feeling the breath of the characters on stage when I go to the theatre, and so the scale of the theatre at the Rep is a bonus! The challenge is the structure of the piece. It was created with a particular type of theatre in mind—the music, scenes, the transitions between locations are built in the text and typically dictate the kind of space you would create to stage this musical. Here, I designed a scheme—a theatre in the theatre—to facilitate the movement through the piece. The biggest challenge is the part of the theatre we aren’t seeing!

Q: Unlike a realistic play like this seasons Wait Until Dark or The Whipping Man, part of designing the set for a musical like Mary Poppins is creating moments of visual magic that leap off of the stage. Do you work with special effects coordinators to build these moments? How do you balance the practical concerns of the physical world of the play with the magical needs of the shows fantasy?

A: In this case there is a company serving some of the magical moments, but as a set designer, I am always counting on the collaboration with the director, lighting designers, costume designers, sound designers…and the work of the carpenters, painters, prop master, and technical direction to make my work come to life—and we all still relay on the actors to inhabit the space. So in this case there is an additional collaborator, but I don’t think that makes it more complicated then usual. That said, there is a practical reality to serving the SFX. It would be short sighted not to work to meet the requirements the expert needs.

Q: As a designer, what is the most challenging moment in the play and why?

A: In a practical way, the most complicated is the transition to the rooftops…but artistically, the biggest challenge is finding a vocabulary that serves the story when you only have relatively small units to use to define each scene.

Q: What do you think will surprise audiences about The Rep’s production of Mary Poppins, and why?

A: I hope the production excites the audience’s imagination…I think imagination leads to surprises.

Q: Whats the most impossible piece of theatre magic you have ever had to design, and how did you accomplish it?

A: It wasn’t a piece…it was a full production. A number of years ago, with Director Donna Drake, and Lighting Designer Annmarie Duggan, I designed Annie. The challenge was capturing an entire environment from the point of view of a bright-eyed child. I tried to make the entire city as exciting as a good book…with discoveries around each corner, and visually capture the scale and perspective of the city from Annie’s eyes. Each piece was drawn from a low perspective…and each unit came from an unexpected place or on in an unexpected way. Donna asked if I could turn a skyscraper in to a staircase. We did!

Q: Did you have a Mary Poppins in your life when you were a child? How did that person influence the adult you are today?

A: To me, Mary encourages imagination—for me, that would be my mother. Cliché perhaps, but growing up with an elementary school teacher as a mother, you can’t help but grow up in a supportive and creative environment.

A: What advice would you give to students interested in pursuing a career in theatrical design?

A: Aside from coming to school at The State University of New Paltz, where I teach…pay attention to how environments effect people and how people influence environments.

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!

Mary Poppins Monday: Q&A with Elizabeth DeRosa


Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins). Photo by John David Pittman.

A new production is getting underway– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

Our Dramaturg Robert Neblett had a chance to talk with Elizabeth DeRosa, who will be playing Mary Poppins on The Rep stage, about her preparation on her role, the importance of the story and the magic that Mary Poppins brings to all of our lives.

Here is what she had to say:

Q: How did you feel when you heard that you would be playing Mary Poppins in this production in Little Rock?

A: Well, I was excited, of course! I had heard lovely things about Arkansas Repertory Theatre. I couldn’t wait to meet The Rep family and get started. Mary Poppins is an iconic, demanding, vocally challenging, thrilling and wonderful role! She is a confident and other worldly woman who will not be ignored. She commands respect. She is loved and feared. She is one of the greatest female roles ever written for musical theatre and I am honored to be introducing my version of this character to the Mid-South!

Q: How do you approach an iconic role like this, which many audience members may not only be familiar with but have a deep emotional attachment for, based on Julie Andrews cinematic portrayal? As an actor, do you start from scratch and create your own character or are there moments of homage to Andrews performance in how you bring Mary Poppins to life?

A: I think, as actors, we are always beginning with a fresh palate. If I have learned anything in my 10 years working professionally, its that when I do get cast, it is for being MYSELF playing a role, my purely unique version of it. I think this holds true whether a role is iconic or brand new. It is one thing to honor a legendary actor’s portrayal and to layer that as a basis of who a character is, but if I simply parroted Julie Andrews’ performance I wouldn’t come across as genuine and authentic, i.e., as Mary Poppins!

Q: In the books by P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins can be described as more stern and aloof and less likable than the on-screen version presented by Julie Andrews. Does your portrayal of Mary Poppins borrow any of the original creation from the books?

A: I love P. L. Travers’ books. I have read all of them multiple times. The woman and her books are absolutely one of a kind! (Have you read her bio? Its awesome.) When Disney Theatricals and Cameron Mackintosh decided to create the stage version of the musical, P. L. Travers played a more vital role. This is why “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the park in “Jolly Holiday,” Miss Andrew, etc., are more closely matching the scenes/lessons from the books. Well, P. L. Travers changed the course of my life (obviously a multitude of other’s lives as well). So, I can tell you for this reason, with absolute certainty, not to mention she is brilliant, that my portrayal of Mary Poppins honors her creation. (Which is a British sensibility that can be lost in translation, if not approached delicately.) That said, of course we have the Disney movie that everyone knows and loves. So, I am also very aware of what an audience is expecting and hoping to see! (This isn’t all about me???) Lastly, I must also honor my director’s vision and cannot wait to find out what Donna’s is…then blend this all together for the Rep!

Q: What would you say to prepare audience members for this production? There are many moments and songs from the film that do not transfer to the stage version, as well as many added plot points (especially in the second act) that may seem unfamiliar. Should they leave their expectations at the door, particularly since this is a live play and not a movie?

A: I think you answered this question in the question! Yes, come for what you love and what you want your family to experience, a live production of a kid friendly musical…not to see the movie. You won’t see the movie, but, your family will be thrilled by our story telling. I can promise you that! Children need not be familiarized (although that CAN be more fun for them sometimes.) Children will watch and listen and be mesmerized by this story. Adults will be amazed at how closely they may identify with it! It is poignant and gripping for all ages.

Q: Describe an average day of rehearsal for this production.

A: An average day of rehearsal will include working with Helen Gregory, our musical director, to learn music. We may then move on to choreography with Rhonda Miller. The ensemble will often stay with Rhonda to learn the intricate dance steps and shapes of a large production number, i.e., “Jolly Holiday,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Step in Time.” During which time, the principal characters of our story will do scene work, learning blocking with Donna. The Rep has two rehearsal spaces which makes this possible! Each day a few actors will have costume and wig fittings sprinkled throughout the schedule as well. We work quickly and efficiently. Actors are responsible for writing down what we’ve learned and making sure it is in our bodies the next time we approach that part of the play in rehearsal. It’s a very large musical and we must always be moving forward!

Q: How do you strive to become practically perfect in every way, both onstage in this role and in your everyday life?

A: In my personal life I am always striving to be a kind, honest, loving and generous person with a positive outlook. I am also a healthy and fit person. I honor my body, mind and spirit by eating healthily and exercising daily. I treasure my life and the people in it as the gifts that they are. I know how to have fun and when are the appropriate times to do so. On stage I listen, watch and do. I am laser focused, knowing that we often have a limited amount of time to learn each section. I do my very best to immediately catch the choreography. Then I go home and drill it to perfection, so it is “in” my body. I always memorize exactly what the author wrote, never paraphrasing. I am kind to the children & cast as we work, but also serious and always lead by example.

Q: Is there any moment of the musical that means more to you on a personal level than any others?

A: I adore “Feed The Birds.” The song itself is stunningly crafted and beautiful. Apparently it was Walt Disney’s favorite song and he would ask the Sherman brothers to play it for him frequently! This moment/lesson in the show means so much to me when I play the role of Mary. The respect and care with which she treats all beings on Earth is a something I often have to remind myself to employ. We are all equal, valuable and worthy…if we can only remember to pause and see the beauty in everything, we would all be that much more peaceful and content.

Q: What is the most difficult moment to play in the show?

Madison Stolzer (Michael) and Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins). Photo by John David Pittman.

Madison Stolzer (Michael) and Elizabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins). Photo by John David Pittman.

A: The most physically difficult moment to play in the show is “Step in Time. It’s a very long song, with intense choreography and staging. The cast must always be in sync as production numbers like this, with large set pieces and difficult choreography can be dangerous if not approached with caution and focus. The most difficult moment to play in the show, as an actor, is probably the relationship between Mary & Bert. What they have….what they are…what they could be…what they can’t be… And of course the answers to these questions are different depending on the director as well as the two actors playing Mary & Bert. It’s the “juiciest” part of playing Mary Poppins and I look forward to figuring this out for our production.

Q: This is a story about magic, the magic of the imagination, the magic of a kind gesture, the magic of dreams. Does that magic share anything in common with the magic of the live theatre?

A: I think this is a very personal question. For a woman who grew up loving theatre and great performances, the magic definitely translates for me. Then, I’ve always believed the theatre is a magical place. When I walk in, I am taken over by a sense of mystery, wonder and awe about what is happening, what could happen and what is about to happen!

Q: Without giving away any of the behind the scenes magic, describe the sensation of being given the opportunity to fly as Mary Poppins.

A: Flying as Mary is the most relaxed and peaceful moment of the show for me. There is no singing, no dancing, no changing costumes, just flying! It’s wonderful. I like the sensation of flying and the power I feel as I arrive and leave. This sense of strength and supernatural magic is very engaging for me as an actor. It helps me to realize and “wear” my role while giving the audience a visual of just how enchanted the character of Mary Poppins truly is.

Q: Did you have a Mary Poppins in your life? Who was it and what was their impact on who you have become as an adult?

A: I didn’t have a Mary Poppins in my life. I never had a nanny and my only babysitter was my Grandmother, from time to time. My example of how to be a grown up came from my amazing parents. They were there at every twist and turn, guiding me, supporting me, cherishing me, believing in me and loving me. I actually became a Mary Poppins! I started babysitting in my neighborhood at age 12. I babysat on the weekends, on & off, all through out middle school and high school. After graduating from college and moving to the city to “pound the pavement,” I became a nanny! I stayed with the first family I worked for, for 2 & a half years. I auditioned and did a few theatre jobs here and there. But I was with them for the entire beginning of my career. That job supported me while I was laying the foundation for my acting career! I absolutely fell in love with the children (a boy & girl). We all got very close and although we knew it was inevitable, it was still very difficult to say goodbye. After I came back to the city from doing a National Tour, I was with another family. I had to say goodbye to this little boy, after 9 months, to go do Mary Poppins on Broadway. As I began to learn the role of Mary, I was so touched by these little faces from my past. They are always there in my mind, giving an authenticity to my performance that is invaluable and that I could never repay them for. When I began to go on for the role of Mary on Broadway ALL of the children I had babysat for, and many of their friends and families, came to see me. I am speechless to this day about how that made me feel. I also have 7 nieces and nephews who I am with as often as possible and love very deeply. It’s all so appropriate. Sometimes I like to think, I truly am Mary Poppins. As a caregiver I am never too stern, but I suffer no nonsense. I am honest and kind. I am clean, sensible and full of energy. Of course, I also play all sorts of games!

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!

Mary Poppins Monday: P.L. Travers and Mary Poppins

A new production is getting underway– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

PL Travers, wrote Mary Poppins series of booksThis week, we would like to take a look at the woman behind Mary Poppins– author P.L.  Travers. For our study guide, Dramaturg Robert Neblett provided an in-depth look at this legendary woman and her legacy, just in time for our Mary Poppins production set to take stage this week!

Early Life

Born Helen Lyndon Goff in 1899 in Australia, P. L. Travers had a colorful life before ever being approached by Roy and Walt Disney to make a film version of her Mary Poppins books in the mid-1940s.

After her alcoholic father, a bank manager, died of tuberculosis in 1905, her mother and sisters moved to Bowral, New South Wales. While attending boarding school, she began writing poetry and pursued a career as an actress. After she moved to England in 1924, she assumed the pen name P. L. Travers and started creating the characters who would soon populate her children’s books.

In her youth, she lived a globetrotting life, studying poetry with the leaders of the new Irish national literature movement and even working in the United States studying Native American mythology and folklore.


Upon the 1934 publication of Mary Poppins, Travers became an international success, following up the original volume with seven sequels over the next 50 years. While she wrote many other children’s books and nonfiction works, none achieved the success that her Mary Poppins books did.

Mary Poppins author DL Travers with Walt Disney and Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews, Walt Disney and P.L. Travers

Beginning as early as 1938 Walt Disney pursued the rights for a film adaptation of Travers’ Mary Poppins stories. She refused him for nearly 20 years, finally agreeing to meet with him and the film’s collaborators in California in 1961 as a “consultant” on the film, largely because she was in danger of financial ruin. These encounters are dramatized in the 2013 film “Saving Mr. Banks.”

Her main objections to the film version were that she felt Mary Poppins’ character had been “softened” too much, she did not like the music composed by the Sherman Brothers for the film and was absolutely opposed to any use of animation in the telling of her story. Ultimately, Disney overrode her objections once he purchased the rights from her, claiming final cut privilege.

The tension between Travers and Disney was so strong by the time of the world premiere of the film that Disney did not even invite her to the event. She had to ask to be added to the guest list. She was supposedly so angered by the final version of the film that she wept openly during the screening. Even though the film secured her financial future and reinvigorated her fame for the rest of her life, she always regretted her decision to sell her beloved character to Disney. When asked for permission to create a sequel to Mary Poppins, she refused and would not change her mind.

Who is Mary Poppins, exactly?

The character of Mary Poppins, as written by Travers, is often cold, intimidating, stubborn and unsympathetic. Her hardness is intended to cut through the nonsense attempted by the Banks children, in an attempt to civilize their uncouth ways. However, she does take the children on a number of magical adventures in which they are exposed to compassionate, open-hearted friends, relatives and associates of Mary Poppins, all of whom seem to be as ancient and timeless as she is.

Mary Poppins’ true identity is never disclosed, although there are intimations through the books that she may be a shooting star or a “fairy tale come true.” She is referred to as “The Great Exception,” meaning that she has retained the memory of being an infant and possesses special abilities that humans lose as they grow older, including being able to talk to animals. She also remembers the eternal world from which we are born into existence on Earth.

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!

Mary Poppins Monday: Did You Know?

Elizabeth DeRose (Mary Poppins) and Brian Letendre (Bert). Photo by John David Pittman.

Elizabeth DeRose (Mary Poppins) and Brian Letendre (Bert). Photo by John David Pittman.

A new production is getting underway– Mary Poppins– and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

To keep things rolling, we wanted to highlight some things you may not know about the original “Mary Poppins” film and books. Here are some interesting facts, courtesy of our Dramaturg Robert Neblett:



  • Mary Poppins was the first film the Walt Disney Company ever released on DVD format.
  • The word “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986.
  • Julie Andrews was left hanging in mid-air during one particularly long camera set up. The stagehands unwittingly lowered her wire harness rather rapidly. “Is she down yet?” called a grip. “You bloody well better believe she is!” fumed Andrews. [From]
  • The opening shot of Mary Poppins sitting on a cloud contains a gag originally used in Disney’s “Dumbo.” While Poppins checks her make-up, her carpetbag slides “through” the cloud. She catches it repeatedly just before it falls to oblivion. The stork delivering Dumbo does the same thing with his bundle. [From]
  • Many of the nannies seeking an interview to replace Katie Nanna at the beginning of the film are men in drag.
  • The child actors who play Jane and Michael were not told that Dick Van Dyke would also be playing Mr. Dawes, Sr., in the bank scenes.

    Julie Andrews & Audrey Hepburn

    Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews

  • Van Dyke suggested to Walt Disney that he double in the role of Mr. Dawes, Sr. He even offered to play the role for free. Disney made him audition for the role, and when Van Dyke was cast, also made him make a financial donation to the CalArts film school.
  • Julie Andrews was hesitant to accept the role of Mary Poppins, hoping that she would be asked to recreate her stage performance as Eliza Doolittle in the film adaptation of the musical My Fair Lady, which cast Audrey Hepburn as the Cockney flower girl instead. Andrews went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role as Mary Poppins in a year that saw the two films competing for Oscars.
  • Interestingly enough, though she was not asked to play Eliza Doolittle, her performance in Mary Poppins is what convinced the producers of The Sound of Music (1965) to cast her as Maria von Trapp, another singing governess (with decidedly fewer magic powers).


  • In the books, Jane and Michael have three additional siblings: the twins, John and Barbara, and youngest sister Annabel, who is born in the middle of the second book, Mary Poppins Comes Back. While Jane and Michael are the primary characters in the books, the other children do accompany M

    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    ary Poppins on adventures as well.

  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was written in 1943 to compete with the publication of the third Mary Poppins book, Mary Poppins Opens the Door.
  • The illustrator of the Mary Poppins books, Mary T. Shepard, was the daughter of E. H. Shepard, the famous illustrator of the Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows books.
  • In 1981, the “Bad Tuesday” chapter of Mary Poppins was edited by Travers to alter some negative ethnic stereotypes that were deemed offensive in the latter 20th century. These characters were replaced by animals from around the world.
  • Emma Thompson, who stars as P. L. Travers in the 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks, also appears as a magical, Mary Poppins-esque governess in the Nanny McPhee series of films, based upon the Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand.

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!

Mary Poppins Monday: Extraordinary Lobby Decorations

photo 3A new production is getting underway– Mary Poppins— and that means a brand-new blog series highlighting the various aspects of the show!

To kick off our first Mary Poppins Monday blog post, we wanted to showcase the first thing fans will see when visiting Arkansas Repertory Theatre: the lobby!

This spring when patrons take a step in the lobby, they will be transported to a whimsical land fit for Mary Poppins and her proper ways.

From colorful kites and puffs of cotton emulating clouds to delicate arrangements and intricate cutouts of London-town and Mary Poppins, herself, patrons will be singing a “Spoonful of Sugar” or “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” upon their arrival!

Decorations were created by the theatre’s Stagehands group, whose mission is to welcome and provide hospitality to The Rep’s visiting actors, directors and technical crew. With her vast interior design experience, Penny Beebe led the colorful project that has taken over the 5

“[The Stagehands and I] discussed the music itself and the various scenes within the movie and the musical,” she said, “and decided to focus on the main character Mary Poppins. [We] thought it would be really special if we could somehow make her fly in and amongst some big, billowy clouds.”

To create Mary Poppins’ silhouette, Beebe looked at various photos and decided on one that was “practically perfect in every way.” She first enlarged her picture with an old-fashioned overhead projector that teachers used to use to teach their lessons and she blew her up on a wall and got the outline.

photo 4“From there, it needed to be transferred to foam board. The problem was she didn’t fit on just one piece. It took five pieces of foam board to create Mary Poppins as she was about nine feet in length– from the top of her umbrella to the end of her carpet bag,” Beebe said.

And it wasn’t that easy to install– it took three people on two tall ladders to get her into place!

As for the fluffy clouds you seeing hanging overhead, Beebe used five paper honeycomb balls–the kind that fan out use for decoration for parties– and tied them all together as the basis for the cloud. She then hot glued stuffing in the holes, creating a cloud-like appearance.

Additionally, the creative group loved the idea of hanging various sizes and colors of kites from the ceiling and wrapping the room with the letters and actual word of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

photoAnd if you look on the outside windows, you might notice the outline of a chimney or two– think “Chim Chim Cher-ee”!

“We chatted about Bert and the chimney sweep scene and that inspired us with the idea of creating a silhouette of that particular scene,” Beebe said, “one we could display on the windows in the lobby so that it could be seen from both the interior and exterior of the building as well.”

Kite strings, parasols and centerpieces for each table (with clear vases held in sugar cubes) rounded out the gorgeous decorations for the lobby.

photo 1“We are all excited about Mary Poppins! Here’s to a another successful event!” Beebe said.

Mary Poppins will take The Rep stage from March 6 and will run through April 12. Get your tickets to this Disney musical by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or by visiting

Thank you our wonderful Stagehands group for their wonderful work on the decorations!