INTERVIEW: Becca Hart in Mary Poppins at Artistry

I’m slowly reaching the point where I am recognizing more and more faces each time I see a show in the Twin Cities. Seeing some of my favorite local performers booking show after show warms my heart so much. A few weeks ago, while scrolling through Facebook, I saw Artistry make a very exciting announcement of who would be leading their upcoming production in the title role of Mary Poppins.

Becca Hart is made quite a name for herself in a short amount of time. I first met her while working at Lyric Arts as I helped plan their annual season announcement party. A few short weeks later I watched as she blew audiences away as Hope Cladwell in their production of Urinetown. Recently she also made headlines in The Wolves* at the Jungle Theater which audience and critics raved about.

On the eve of opening night, I was able to chat with Becca about the upcoming production, what it’s like portraying such an iconic character along with some fun rapid fire theater related questions. Enjoy and stay tuned for my review of Mary Poppins which will be posted later this weekend!

BB: Now I’m a big fan of yours after seeing you in shows like Urinetown at Lyric Arts. You’re amazing to watch on stage and I was so excited when I saw the announcement about you playing Mary Poppins. What was it like getting the call that you had been cast not only in the show but as the title role?
Would you believe me if I said I did a little dance on the other end of that phone call? I was floored - a main reason I do theater is to create magic for those in the audience. And here was one of the most magical roles of them all!

BB: How did you research for the role?
I listened to the movie songs again, of course, in addition to the musical recordings of the stage play. When we got into rehearsal, however, someone brought in a copy of the Mary Poppins books which had the original illustrations with them. She’s portrayed with such illustrations (and such adjectives as “crackled” and “waltzed”) that I then took inspiration from that portrayal of her.

BB: What is it like portraying an iconic character that also is being sort of revived with the new upcoming movie with Emily Blunt? How are you making the part your own?
Oh, everyone in the cast is so excited about that movie. Revivals like a stage musical and previews for a new movie feel like a mounting homage to a character and story so many people love. As for making it my own, director Joel Sass was clear in the auditions that he was interested to find times when Mary is a bit more...unpredictable than sugary. I remember mentioning other witches such as those in A Wrinkle in Time and he full heartedly agreed. It’s been a witchy collaboration since day one!

BB: What is your favorite number to perform and why?
“Feed the Birds”, for sure. It is such a great song: it slows down the pace of the show for a moment, but it’s such a haunting melody and introduces such a brief, but powerful character in the Bird Woman. Also, in the stage play, it’s a duet!!

Becca Hart as Mary Poppins. Credit: Devon Cox

Becca Hart as Mary Poppins.
Credit: Devon Cox

BB: What is the hardest part of the show or role that you had to overcome?
Not singing along to all of Bert’s songs, haha! His are so catchy and sweet...And C Ryan is so marvelous, I always want to join in before I’m supposed to!

BB: Tell us a funny backstage or rehearsal story!
Well, our choreographer, Joe Chvala would often use the adjective “jaunt” to describe the mood of a certain dance move. That’s evolved into the best backstage game ‘Can You Jaunt Like This’, which is followed immediately do I put this...The stupidest dance move you can think of on the spot. Oh, and then there was the time I was on top of the ladder holding a kite and when I tried to do something magical, I just hit myself with it in the face *thumbs up*.

BB: What is the biggest take away you want audiences to have after seeing the show?
That it’s never too late to treat someone with love. The Banks family starts the show standing distanced from each other and ends the show dancing together. That’s the change all of us can make within ourselves and towards each other.

Rapid Fire Questions

Dream Role? Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd.
Musicals or plays? Ahhhh, not fair...I really can’t choose.  
Favorite show you’ve ever been in? The Wolves at The Jungle.
Favorite show in general? Our Town is essential to me as a person and, I think, to the human experience.
Favorite role you’ve ever done? Mm you’re asking me a lot of hard ones. My first big one was The Cat in the Hat in Seussical the Musical.
If you could share the stage with anyone, who would it be? It’s not a person, but if the 1927 Theatre Company would let me make art with them to the ends of the earth, I would.
Live action Disney or animated Disney? Animated. And hand-drawn animated, not computer, thank you very much.

*The Wolves will be making a return to the stage, with the same cast, at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. Information can be found on the Jungle Theater’s website.