Stories & Cast Interviews

Monday, June 2, 2014

Meet the Banks Children! (Jane Shearin and Gabriel Reis)

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 We spoke to Jane Shearin and Gabriel Reis, who alternate with Michelle Moughan and Brandon Singel, as Jane and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins at Westchester Broadway Theatre. We asked them to share a little bit about their off-stage lives:


Jane: I go to school at Reed Intermediate School in Newtown, CT, where I’m finishing up 6th grade. I would say my favorite subject would be math. . . I just love math. I am involved in the arts at my school, I’m in chorus and an extra chorus program called concert choir. I also participate in my school musical each year.  Aside from that, I play the guitar and keyboard.

Gabriel:   I am a fifth grader in Tenafly, NJ.  My favorite subjects are math and science - and of course gym!  I play the French Horn in my school's orchestra and also sing in the chorus.  I make sure to keep up with my school work so that I can continue doing the things that I love.  My teachers are awesome and very supportive.  Sometimes I do my homework in the car ride to the theatre.  I have been performing since I was eight. 

Jane: I am 11 years old and I’m the youngest in my family. I have an older sister who’s 17 and is going to go to college next year at Cornell, and a 20 year old brother who will be a junior at NYU. My brother did musicals from 7th-12th grade but stopped when going off to college. When I’m with my family I like to have family meals, and play games like badminton and tetherball in our backyard. We’re all very busy so it’s really special to have some family time. I have a very sweet 12 year old Dalmatian named Allie who I love very much. In our backyard we have a barn where we have two horses named Phoenix and Dillon. We also have a chicken coop with 13 chickens and we'll be getting 6 more soon. We have a stand in our front yard where we sell their eggs. 

Gabriel: I am an only child.  I like having family BBQs in my back yard.  We have a pool and big area for playing whiffle ball and basketball.  I also like going fishing with my dad and ice skating with my mom.   I really want a dog but my parents both work and we are not home enough to take care of a pet.  However, I do have a betta fish - requires very little care.  I have had it for a year already.

Jane: I had seen the movie version of Mary Poppins prior to being in the show, and I had also seen Saving Mr. Banks, but I had never read the book or seen the musical. I've fallen in love with the musical though! 

Gabriel: I saw Mary Poppins on Broadway and wanted to audition for it, but it closed.  I am so happy to be playing the role of Michael Banks at WBT!  Some of my other favorite shows are Beauty and the Beast and Lion King.  

Jane: When I’m not performing, I’m usually reading, singing, dancing, or playing soccer. I’m on a travel soccer team and sometimes I practice in my front yard. I take jazz and tap classes, so I do dance a lot, and singing is just something that I can’t stop doing. My first show was when I was 6 and I was a poodle/Dalmatian in 101 Dalmatians. I've continued performing ever since then and I love what I’m doing. 

Gabriel: When I'm not performing, I like to play a lot of sports, including hockey and tennis.  I also play on the fall and spring travel soccer team and the summer travel baseball team.  

Jane: The music on my iPod is 100% show tunes from many musicals. I’d say Frozen is my favorite movie. Currently, my favorite musicals are Wicked, Newsies, Matilda, and Legally Blonde.

Gabriel: My iPod is filled with theatrical songs and oldies from the 70s and 80s, as well as songs from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, et al.  My favorite song right now is Can't Hold Us. One of my favorite movies is Despicable Me 2.    

JaneMy dream role?  One word. . . . Elphaba. I LOVE Idina Menzel and Wicked is my favorite musical. I love the way Elphaba’s an outsider who makes two friendships that change her life and show that she’s really a great, green person. Other than that I would say Elsa from Frozen because both she and Elphaba aren't afraid to be themselves. . . and they’re both portrayed by Idina.

My best friend and I have this dream that we’re going to be in Wicked together and continue our friendship on the stage. If I don’t make it to Broadway, I’d like to be in a TV series or movie but really. . . Broadway is where I want to be. 

Gabriel: A role that I'd really like to play in the future is Gaston in Beauty and the Beast. 

Meet The Banks Children! (Brandon Singel and Michelle Moughan)

Posted by: Pia Haas on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 We interviewed the talented Children Brandon Singel and Michelle Moughan who portray Michael and Jane Banks (alternating with Gabriel Reis and Jane Shearin) in Mary Poppins at WBT. We asked them to share something about their offstage lives: 


Brandon: I go to LMK  school in Harrison.  My favorite subject is Science.  I am in the 6th grade.  I am in the Glee Club in my school.

Michelle: I go to school at a K - 8 school in Upstate NY, and my favorite subject is probably...math. I actually learned how to recite a little over fifty digits of the number pi ! I am also involved in the arts at my school. I play the violin and I am in the chorus. We just recently had our annual spring concert and art show, which I sang and played my instrument in.

Brandon: My family is very fun and enthusiastic.  I do not have any brothers or sisters.  

Michelle: I have two younger brothers, Mikey,10 and Max, 9 yrs.old. Mikey plays the trumpet, is a really good chess player, and is into sports like my dad. Max started taking an interest in theatre (my mom is a total theatre buff) and is the comedian of the family.  I like to go to the local pool in the summer with my brothers and to my uncle's house in Vermont where we go fishing. Of course, we all love to go to the theatre and whenever we're in New York City, we go to our favorite place to eat: Shake Shack!

Brandon: I have only seen Mary Poppins, the movie, but that was when I was in pre-school.

Michelle: I actually saw Mary Poppins on Broadway right before it closed, and I loved the show! When I saw that WBT was doing it, I just had to audition!

Brandon: Whenever I have free time, either before or after a show, I try to finish up any homework or school work that I have.

Michelle: My teachers are great and give me the work that I need if I'm going to be absent, or if I have to leave early for a performance. I make sure I plan out when I can fit in my school work so I know I have enough time to get it all done. I keep my grades up and I am a member of the National Junior Honor Society, School is important.

Brandon: When I'm not performing, I like to make YouTube videos with my friend Ethan.  I also like to play Minecraft with my other friends from school.  I have been performing since the 3rd grade - I was a Newsboy in Gypsy at ACT in Yonkers.

Michelle: I have been doing ballet since I was very little, but I first became interested in theatre when I was nine years old. My music teacher suggested I audition for a local musical and I was cast in a role. I have been loving performing ever since!  I especially like to dance, and I do Tap, Ballet, Theatre Dance, and Hip Hop!  Whenever I am not performing, I am involved in different clubs at school, like Mathletes, and Poetry Club and I am on the Debate team. I have participated in many spelling bees, and advanced to the New York State Scripps Spelling Bee Finals  2 years in a row. I also enjoy knitting and crocheting.

Brandon: I have 3 things in mind of what I want to be when I grow up:  a film maker, a science teacher or a video game designer.

Michelle: In the future, I want to keep acting and performing. I also have an ambition to maybe be a fashion designer when I grow up. I have a book full of designs for cool new outfits I thought of.

Brandon: I used to have a cat named Romeo, but he died in December of 2012.  If I could have any pet, I'd probably get a dog because they're playful and they are great to bond with.

Michelle: I don't have a pet, but my dream pet is definitely a Pug! I love their little wrinkly faces, they're just too cute! If I ever had a dog, that would be my first choice.

Michelle: My iPod is full of show tunes from many musicals, and one of my favorite singers is Sutton Foster!

Brandon: We have a whole-house sound system, so I don't have or need an iPod for music.  

Michelle: One of my all-time favorite movies is "Paul Blart, Mall Cop". Every time I see it, it never gets old. My favorite shows on Broadway right now are Matilda, Newsies and Violet  the Musical. There are so many good musicals, I can't choose my favorite one!

Brandon: If I could play any role, I would want to play the Artful Dodger in OLIVER, because on the inside he's a dark, mysterious guy, part of a pick-pocketing group, but on the outside he's just a fun person to be around!

Michelle: My dream role was actually Jane Banks ever since I saw it on Broadway. I hoped that there would be auditions for the role, but then I found out it was closing. I hoped that there would be another theatre doing "Mary Poppins" so I could audition for Jane, and sure enough, here it was! When I'm older, I think the role Eliza Doolittle would be really fun. I just love classic shows like My Fair Lady! I have to admit, one of my other favorite roles is actually Mary Poppins! That's definitely another one I would love to play!

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.