Mackintosh Banks on Kelly & Lee for Mary PoppinsDate: 14 June 2004
At a press reception held today at the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre, impresario Cameron Mackintosh introduced the stars of his much-anticipated, £8 million stage adaptation of Mary Poppins. Laura Michelle Kelly and Gavin Lee (pictured at today’s event) will play the eccentric nanny of the title and her cockney chimneysweep friend Bert, the roles made famous by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the 1964 Disney screen classic (See News, 12 Jan 2004).
Forty years after the release of the film, the stage musical, co-produced with Thomas Schumacher for Disney Theatrical Productions, will open at the Prince Edward on 15 December 2004, following an initial eight weeks, from 28 September to 6 November 2004 (previews from 15 September), at the Bristol Hippodrome. Rehearsals begin on 19 July 2004, when the full cast is due to be announced.
Despite having no formal training, 22-year-old Kelly has starred in Beauty and the Beast, Les Miserables, Whistle Down the Wind, Mamma Mia! and My Fair Lady in the West End and has just returned from the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. This will be the first time that she’s originated a leading role for the musical stage. Lee’s West End credits include Peggy Sue Got Married, Contact, A Saint She Ain’t and Oklahoma!. His upcoming films include The Phantom of the Opera and Beyond the Sea.
Speaking today, Mackintosh acknowledged that while both Kelly and Lee were “yet to be household names”, he remained “deeply excited” by the casting. “Two great English performers – what more could I want?” he said. Lee backed the producers’ decision to avoid celebrity casting. “It’s more about the show than who’s in it,” he said. “The star is the show.”
Kelly joked that she and her co-star had been sworn to secrecy about show details, but hinted that “the things people remember and love about the film will be in the musical, but there will also be a lot more.”
The new book for Mary Poppins is being written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), drawing on stories from five of PL (Pamela) Travers books as well as the Disney film. Mackintosh said that, when adapting the children’s classic for the stage, the aim has been to produce something “familiar but surprising… you want to create theatrical magic, not a bad version of cinematic magic.”
Mary Poppins will feature many of the songs from the Sherman Brothers' Oscar-winning film score - which included "Chim Chim Cher-ee", "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" - as well as new songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Honk!, Peter Pan).
The creative team is led by former NT artistic director Richard Eyre, with co-direction and choreography by Matthew Bourne and additional choreography by Stephen Mear. The production is designed by Bob Crowley, with lighting by Howard Harrison, sound by Andrew Bruce and Nick Lidster, and orchestrations by William David Brohn.
- by Terri Paddock