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Local News / Entertainment

Friday, 10 December, 2010 1:58 AM

Mary VanArsdel to star as Bird Woman in Mary Poppins at the Detroit Opera House

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Mary VanArsdel as Bird Woman in the Original National Tour Company of Mary Poppins.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

DETROIT -- Hollywood Actress Mary VanArsdel has had roles in television shows L.A. Law, Melrose Place and Gilmore Girls. In addition, she has starred in Broadway plays Mass, Camelot and Phantom. VanArsdel will soon play the role of the Bird Woman in the new musical Mary Poppins. It opens at the Detroit Opera House on Dec. 16 and runs through Jan. 2, 2011. The show is perfect for all ages, not just children.

"I first started doing little plays in grade school, high school, college, but I also sang," VanArsdel said. "I kept those two things separately and then when I went to college, I majored in American history, but I kept performing. Once I graduated, I decided I did really want to make a career out of this. I sought further training in New York and then I started in my hometown of Seattle doing regional theatre. I did a number of years of show after show after show. Eventually, moved to Los Angeles and did film and television. Then, moved back to New York and got my first Broadway tour, which is Mary Poppins."

Can you tell me a little about the plot for the musical Mary Poppins?

"Mary Poppins was a series of books written by P.L. Travers," she added. "It was about a nanny who was quite strict. Walt Disney heard of the book through his grandchildren, I believe and decided to turn it into the movie, which has become very beloved. Cameron Mackintosh had always dreamed of turning it into a stage musical, but the author wanted more content from the original books. Mary Poppins is a perfect blend on stage of the most favorite things from the movie as well as some of the lesser-known equally delightful elements of the books. They're going to see really a new show."

VanArsdel will be playing the character of the Bird Woman in the new musical.

"If people have seen the movie, it was a bedtime story that Julie Andrews told and she sang feed the birds describing the old Bird Woman who sits on the steps of the old St. Paul's Cathedral," the actress explained . "In the stage version, they expanded the role of the Bird Woman. So I sing 'Feed the Birds' and then Mary Poppins joins in and then I finish the song. We're teaching the children about kindness and generosity. It's an iconic song and it's an incredible honor for me to do."

Why do you think Mary Poppins is so popular since it won a Tony Award and was nominated seven times?

"First of all, it's the most spectacular Broadway show you're going to see," VanArsdel said. "They've pulled out all of the stops. There's amazing dancing, amazing singing, amazing special effects. But there's also a really timeless story and a very current story. So even though it seems to be a period piece, it talks about greed and people who are learning that family and other issues are more important than money. It's also a multigenerational show. People sometimes think of Mary Poppins as being a children's show and it's not. It's for all ages from probably five or six on up to the oldest grandparents."

What's next for you after this musical...any movies or TV shows?

"Actually, Mary Poppins is going to continue on the road for another year or two at least," she added. "I don't see there's any end in sight for the tour. I will be completing my second year for the tour in February and I've decided that I need for personal and professional reasons to move on. I'm going to be going back to New York in February and auditioning to find the next show on Broadway and actually stay in the city for a while."

Would you consider acting in a movie or TV show in Michigan with our state's 42 percent tax incentive for the film industry?

"Yeah, I'm not the producer, but it sounds to me like a producer would find that very attractive," the actress explained . "Often times, they will bring in stars to the local film areas and then hire locally. I think that's great for the local actors and actresses to have such great incentive."

What would be your advice for students going into theater or film who may be looking for their first job?

"It can be very daunting," VanArsdel said. "First, the number one thing is persistence, not to let the first few rejections discourage anyone. It is a difficult business and it is a business. It's not something you can just sit at home and wait for the phone to ring. You need to be out there constantly meeting people, working on your craft. If it's a case wanting to be in film and television or stage to be working on your audition material, constantly be networking, perfecting your skills. Start small if you need too. Start with doing a free reading. Start with a play just on the weekends and then start to grow from there."

Ticket prices for the Detroit engagement of MARY POPPINS start at $25.00 (inclusive of facility fee) and are on sale now at the Fisher Theatre box office and all Ticketmaster locations. Tickets are also available for purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com or www.BroadwayInDetroit.com, and by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-2787. For group sales (20 or more) please call (313) 871-1132 or email groups@broadwayindetroit.com.

For additional information, call (313) 872-1000 or visit www.BroadwayinDetroit.com.

 

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

The Original National Tour Company of Mary Poppins perform “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

 

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