Stories & Cast Interviews

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mrs. Banks (Leisa Mathers) tells all!

Posted by: pia on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I was born and grew up in Melbourne, Australia. I was what my parents fondly termed the 'oops' baby. My 2 sisters and brother are substantially older than me (the eldest being 14 years older) so despite having siblings I sort of grew up like an only child. 

The city of Melbourne is situated around a very large bay and while the urban areas do spread inland a good portion of it is around the coastal bayside areas. So not long after I was born my parents achieved a life long dream of living by the sea. So, for me, I was lucky enough to grow up only a 10 minute bike ride from the beach. Consequently my love for surf, sun and sand has never  left me.

Growing up, my Father was the Art Director of a large advertising agency. From even before I can remember I was doing print ads and commercials and continued to do so through my teens. My parents saw it as a great way to build a college fund.

When I was growing up, every Sunday each member of the family was allowed to play some music of their choice. And because of the large age gaps in my family the music ranged from Mozart to Nat King Cole to Pink Floyd to Abba. So, I've got it all on my iPod. Cosi Fan Tutte, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles, Sting, Green Day, Pink and Pharrell Williams, to mention just a few.

  Leisa Mather (R) as Mrs. Banks with Jan Neuberger & Brandon Singel.

 Also, being a painfully shy child at around the age of 12 my parents enrolled me in a youth theater program at a large drama school. I took to it like the proverbial duck to water and loved discovering that I could mask my shyness by creating wonderful characters. 

Once I was in High School, I did all the school musicals and developed a close relationship with my music teacher Mrs. Batour. I will always remember after doing a production of The Boyfriend in which I played Maisie, she came up to me and said "Have you ever thought about performing as a career? Because I think you've got what it takes."

The first time I heard of Mary Poppins is from the wonderful Disney film version starring Julie Andrews. I thought she was perfect instead of merely practically perfect.I am very familiar with the movie. The musical takes more of the path of the books which are a little darker in context. 

I think theater is still finding its' way with turning movies into musicals. I think sometimes they are incredible and then other times not. The ones that aren't so successful tend to get carried away with the visuals and the music and forget about the story. I think what makes theater great is the journey the story of a show takes us on. So it needs to take precedence and be strong.

Some of my favorite shows are Ragtime, Anything Goes, On The Twentieth Century, Little Shop of Horrors, and Sweeney Todd. Two of my dream roles would be Mama Rose in Gypsy and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.  

I consider myself to be very fortunate having done 4 previous shows at WBT. Beauty and The Beast, Legally Blonde, Miracle on 34th Street, and The Sound of MusicWhat I love most about working at WBT is that it has become like family. It always welcomes me with open arms every time I come back. Everyone, from crew, to office, to management. I always have a wonderful time.

  As Miss Finley w/ Peter Marinos in Miracle On 34th Sreet

 

 

 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meet Jan Neuberger As The Deliciously Evil Miss Andrew

Posted by: pia on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)
I grew up in New Jersey, about 20 minutes West of the George Washington Bridge. It was a nice suburban bedroom community--in my day, no doors locked and we were outside playing practically from dawn to dusk. I was lucky I got an excellent public school education from great schools. I started dance classes at 4 years old in the basement of a local ex-ballerina. My parents divorced & My father lived in NYC, so  I spent lots of time there from a young age. I also started studying there at 16 with a theatre workshop for students. I moved there at 18 to spend 2 years as a Dance Major at NYU, lived there for the next 25 years! 
 
Playing the role of a villain is great fun. Several years ago I played the Wicked Witch of the West at St. Louis MUNY. I also flew in that role too, of course! Miss Andrew is a distant cousin, more refined and not green, but a family member. It is a delight sharing the stage with our Janes and Michaels and of course the 'practically perfect' Lauren Blackman.
 
Acting is Bred in the Bone i think. In my first dance recital I helped myself to an extra curtain call. With the brief exception of a period at around age 9 where I wanted to be what was then called an airline stewardess, I never wanted to do anything else with my life. (From my advanced vantage point today, I can imagine having taken several different paths--ah, hindsight.) I was very, very lucky to have been cast in the first revival of GYPSY at age 21. And was lucky to have had the extraordinary Angela Lansbury as the template for every positive characteristic a real star and a true professional should be--a genuine, classy lady who never let the audience see the sweat behind turning in that performance as Rose 8 times a week. I understudied Dainty June and went on the first time near the end of the preview period in L.A.; Angela had Corinne, her dresser, bring flowers from the dressing room before the show began. Then she made a beeline for me after the curtain call to say, "You've done us a great service tonight. Thank you." I'll never forget it. 
 
  Jan as Miss Andrew  with  Michelle Moughan &  Brandon Singel (Jane & Michael Banks)
 
 
 Of course I loved the movie as a kid. I saw the Broadway production early in its run. Ruth Gotschall, who played Miss Andrew beautifully, remains a standout from that evening, but I remember thinking, Oh my, that's much too much vocal exercise for the likes of me! 
 
SHOWBOAT remains a warm memory--my first at An Evening, starring Ed Herlihy! I played Ellie opposite Bill Nabel as Frank--later introduced Bill to my sister Susan and he's been my brother in law for ...well, for a long time--and father to my beloved niece and nephew. I also got engaged to my first husband during that run! I remember it being a lovely production with magnificent voices top to bottom, and I so fondly and respectfully remember Alyce Webb, who played Queenie. She was so loving-- I had then only the faintest inkling what she must have faced in the way of racial barriers during her lifetime. Another person I'll never forget.
After that I replaced the lead (the Judy Garland role) in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, directed by Richard Casper who left us too soon. I Did a Christmas show one year, too, and the last production I did was a GEORGE M! with Frank Root that was running in 1986. And then I guess I got busy elsewhere--this is my first show at the "new" theatre!   
 
I don't have a strong opinion, although in a perfect world there would be more Musicals made from Original ideas. From Mary Poppins the movie, I most fondly remember Ed Wynn and "I Love to Laugh".
 
I Still love SHOWBOAT. I love the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, especially CAROUSEL. In recent years (mainly because I don't live in NY anymore and spent 4 years getting my degree at Trinity College in Hartford), I've seen very little. Actually, I saw KINKY BOOTS back in January and had an unexpectedly wonderful time. My dream roles these days are all in plays...I'm a little weary of musicals, truth be told. 
 
When I'm not on stage I love writing (got my degree in English/Creative Writing), reading, working outdoors in the backyard and beautiful gardens my husband Bob Carter created at our home in Newtown, spending time with family & friends (especially my 3 best friends who all go back to my earliest days in NY), my 2 cats, etc. 
 
 
Tuesday, May 20, 2014

About Joe Dellger who plays Mr. Banks!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (1)

I'm a Midwestern boy. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. I was the fourth of eight kids! Six boys and two girls. Not the worst place in the line but probably not the best either. I'm a "Cheese Head" and my home town is known for producing huge amounts of cheese! It still does. It's the home of Sargento, Sartori, Borden, and a lot of other cheese companies as well. It was the cheese "capital" of Wisconsin, and when I grew up, some said the country. We had a self-congratulatory parade every summer called "The Cheese Derby Day Parade".

My family wasn't in the cheese business. They were plumbers, and continue to be four generations later. Crime there was non-existent and we never had to lock our doors at night. In fact, I never saw keys to our house. I don't think they existed. Everyone but one sister and I are still back there. I always liked singing, and got that love from my mother, who sang with a dance band just before WWII and for a while after it started. Her piano player went into the air force but 50 years later, after my father passed, called her up and they started a late-life romance that ended when he passed as well.

I sang around the neighborhood and sometimes mothers of my friends would ask me to sing songs for them on their porches or in their driveways and I would! I got into the school musical when I was a freshman in high school and all the subsequent years at Plymouth High. I was also in the Mixed Chorus and Swing Choir in those years. I used to sneak into the auditorium during study halls and sit on the stage in the dark and dream about performing. By then, I knew I wanted to be either in music of theater. As it turned out, theater was how it went. My high school music and English teachers were very influential to me. The two of them handled all the musicals. After I spent a summer in the Kids From Wisconsin, an elite musical troop of singers and musicians that were similar to Up With People and did very red, white and blue shows. My acting teacher at the University of Washington was also very influential.

I never saw the Broadway production of Mary Poppins, but I had seen the movie a long time ago. I was surprised to open the script when I got it and saw how large a role George Banks is. About 10 years ago, I did Footloose at the WBT and had a lot of fun. I played the Rev. Shaw. which was another good role where the character changes a lot through the course of the show, just like George.

What I like about WBT is that they do longer runs than most regional theaters anymore. For actors, getting those work weeks is so important to qualifying for insurance. Bill (Stutler) and Bob (Funking) are also really nice guys and I give them and Lisa so much credit for keeping the theater going through the ups an downs of our roller coaster economy.   

 I'm not sure if I have any dream roles, oddly enough.  I used to want to do Romeo but that was a long time ago, and I obviously won't be doing that!  
 
When I'm not acting - and even when I am - I enjoy oil painting and woodworking.   I like a pretty wide variety of music.  I probably listen to Jazz, Swing the most but I like classic rock and roll, Irish music, Sting, Don Henley, and  Meditation music.  

 
Joe Dellger as Mr. Banks, with The Banks Family.

Monday, May 19, 2014

About Karen Murphy who plays Mrs. Brill in Mary Poppins!

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

I was born in White Plains and grew up in New Canaan, CT. I took tap/ballet at Miss Margaret' s School of Dance in White Plains. In High School I had spectacular teachers who encouraged many students to pursue the theatre, A classmate of mine (Michael Krass) just got a Tony Nomination for Costume Design! My parents went to the theatre and show albums/play bills were around the house. I also had a great voice teacher in New Canaan and I was influenced by women on TV such as Leslie Uggams, Phyllis Diller. I was also a semi-finalist for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour.

To prepare for these intense roles, I am usually cast for at WBT, I look to literature, photographs, movies and people on the street. I also have a cousin who is a nun and she's a great influence for this role. I knew when I was 3 that I could sing and knew I'd spend my life doing so. Comedy came easy, perhaps because I had 5 siblings to navigate.I have toured with the 2nd National Tour  of Mary Poppins which closed last June 2nd in Anchorage.

There are many things I enjoy about WBT. A great crew, Rainbow Coalition audiences, a chance to perform roles not available to me on Broadway, I get every Monday and Tuesday off and I love working with Lisa Tiso!  My favorite shows are Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, The King And I, Company, The Sound Of Music, and Carousel. My dream roles are Rose in Gypsy and Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd.

When I am not at work, I spend time with family and friends, take lessons, watch TCM, read the NY Times, and go to museums.

My Ipod has a wide mix. Mostly Aretha Franklin,The Beatles, classic R and B, Neil Sedaka, Whitney Houston, and Barbra Streisand.

 Karen Murphy (as Mrs. Brill) in Mary Poppins. With Joe Dellger.