Stories & Cast Interviews
Mrs. Banks (Leisa Mathers) tells all!
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 Music. What 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
Meet Jan Neuberger As The Deliciously Evil Miss Andrew
About Joe Dellger who plays Mr. Banks!
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.
Joe Dellger as Mr. Banks, with The Banks Family.
About Karen Murphy who plays Mrs. Brill in Mary Poppins!
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.