Mary Poppins is flying into Charleston for a four night stay at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center February 1 – 4, 2012.
A spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down.
Art Mag recently got the chance to sit down with the stars of Mary Poppins, Rachel Wallace and Case Dillard, Mary and Bert respectively, tour director Anthony Lyn, and tour choreographer Geoffrey Garratt, in an intimate interview with some of Charleston’s finest journalists.
From the time that Mary Poppins hit the Broadway stage, Rachel Wallace said her heart ached to be part of that show, to simply be in the building where such a magical production was taking place. Wallace believes that the story of Mary Poppins, and particularly this stage interpretation, is about family and communication. Mary offers the Banks family the opportunity to be themselves, to be happy, and to share that side of themselves with people they love the most.
She has loved the never ending pursuit of becoming ‘practically perfect,’ the challenge of the role, physically, emotionally and vocally, and the chance to work on truly being Mary Poppins each night.
Case Dillard played Bert in the original Broadway production of Mary Poppins, and the cast and crew agree: he IS Bert. Dillard will walk up the walls, and tap dance on the ceiling, just like on Broadway. “All I ever worry about is flipping right side up!” he says. Dillard strives to show Bert as a real person, not just a Dick Van Dyke regurgitation. He quips that if ever tries to tell a joke, it bombs…but just being himself hits home every time.
Dillard also loves that while he’s played every role from ensemble member to the star, he has always felt integral to the story. This is a production the cast simply loves being part of.
Anthony Lyn, the tour director, went back to the books. No, not to school. The original books by P. L. Travers. In order to flesh out the story of Mary, Bert and the Banks family, and successfully take a beloved movie to a stage production, he looked to the English children’s book series, first published in 1934. This allowed the characters to have more of an arc, and “gives more texture to the story,” he says.
To him, the story of Mary Poppins is one of charity in the broadest sense. Michael Banks learns compassion for the people he fears and deems ugly. Mr. Banks learns that family is more important than his job or bank account. ‘Antz,’ as the cast affectionately calls him, loves the wonder of the children in the cast, their heartfelt enthusiasm for each new adventure in the theatre.
Geoffrey Garratt serves as the tour choreographer for Mary Poppins, and has created new movements for the cast that showcases the individuals behind the movement. Both Wallace and Dillard agree that the diversity of the numbers keeps the production exciting for them. The show is tailored to the cast who gets on stage each night, rather than Garratt squeezing them into a cookie-cutter mold. They are encouraged to rethink the essence of their characters, to be themselves, with British accents. Garratt says that through the “process of fine-tuning and reinvention, then they own what they do so much more.”
This production promises all the magic of the New York Broadway show, with incredible costumes, set design, lights, flight and more. The crew arrived extra early on January 11th to begin set construction, and this production kicks off the North American right here in Charleston. Currently, there are four productions of Mary Poppins running on three continents, and the musical has won 44 major theatre awards.
Tickets are on sale now, at the PAC box office, Ticketmaster online and over the phone at 1.800.745.3000. Performances run February 1 – 4 at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive, at 7:30 pm. Groups of 10+ can get a discount, call 843.529.5007.
words: Stacy Huggins
photos of cast and crew: Matthew Rickerby