Art of the perfect ‘Poppins’
For CdA Summer Theatre, the right casting, a little magic bring production together – in the most delightful way
Call it fate. Or magic.
Either way, it seems practically perfect that Mallory King is playing the lead in “Mary Poppins” at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre.
When Roger Welch, CST’s artistic director, first got the news they’d been selected as one of five theaters in the country given permission to stage “Poppins” fresh off its Broadway run, he said he instantly thought King would be perfect for the role. The same day, he said, he was looking at King’s Facebook page. There he saw a photo of King and her husband, dressed as Mary and Bert the chimney sweep for Halloween.
See? Practically perfect.
“It’s one of those dream roles,” King said. “I grew up with the movie. I have such a love of ‘Mary Poppins.’ To be entrusted with such an iconic role has been really amazing, but it’s also been a bit intimidating, because the character description is ‘practically perfect in every way.’ So living up to that and finding that perfect balance that Mary has between being stern and bringing love back into the family – it’s a great challenge.”
Rather than look back to Julie Andrews’ film portrayal, King found inspiration in P.L. Travers’ books. “It honed me into who exactly she is,” she said.
Joining Welch in co-directing “Mary Poppins” is Rommy Sandhu, who spent more than six years with the Broadway production as a dancer in the ensemble, understudy and dance captain. Sandhu said the challenges in producing “Mary Poppins” in Coeur d’Alene are the same as they were in producing it on Broadway.
“It’s really in trying to find the nuances and the essence in the story of Mary Poppins and in finding ways to create magic,” he said. “We had the same issues in New York and in other productions that I worked on in creating the magic and in fulfilling the audience’s hopes and expectations and surpassing them.”
Sandhu said that over nearly seven years, he’s seen a lot of Berts and Marys. And as is typical with big Broadway productions, new actors seek to put their own stamp on a part, all the while following the template established by their predecessors. He’s been impressed with what he’s seen from King and Christian Duhamel, who plays Bert, and the ensemble, which includes CST veterans Krista Kubicek, Tamara Schupman, Kirk Mouser and Patrick Treadway.
“Here, we’re taking a cast of characters who’ve never really seen the production and didn’t live with it and have embodied it on their own and done a really amazing job,” he said.
“Mary Poppins” is a singing, dancing extravaganza and may be one of the most dance-heavy productions CST has ever mounted, Welch said, along with “Cats” and “A Chorus Line.”
It’s a cast of triple threats, Sandhu said. “They have to sing and they have to dance and they have to act because every step continues the story. There are no throwaways.”
The “Step in Time” number will feature some “great hoofing,” Sandhu said, as well as the now-famous number where Bert dances on the ceiling. King, Welch and Sandhu all cite “ Supercalifragilistic- expialidocious” as a potential showstopper. King, however, can’t pick a favorite number.
“The main thing is every song is so magical and every song is teaching the children or the family a lesson, so it’s hard to choose just one,” King said.
“Every song is a spoonful of sugar,” Sandhu chimed in. “Every song furthers the story and offers a lesson for the children and the family to come back together and be a single unit again.”