Those who loved “Mary Poppins” the movie will be even more enamored by the sumptuous musical coming to many of this country’s major theaters following a stay of nearly two months in Washington’s elegant Kennedy Center Opera House. Between August 2010 and August 2011, the North American Tour will drop in on fifteen cities, including Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Omaha, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle and Portland, celebrating its second anniversary on the road in March 2011. Caroline Sheen, the original UK touring company star, reprises her role as Mary Poppins, while Bert is played by the original London and Broadway star, Gavin Lee.
Despite the initial lure of lead stars, no great musical can succeed without supreme effort by the entire cast. Versatile American performer Elizabeth Earley is representative of the artists gathered from both sides of the pond to be part of this spectacular theatrical experience produced by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh.
Upon auditioning in January 2010 to replace a Swing, Earley was immediately flown to
California to join the tour in progress and has not stopped since. As a Swing, she is part of the ensemble with multiple duties. Her task is to cover nine women in the ensemble, learn their parts, and step in at a moment’s notice. Already she has played eight of the roles.
One night she played two different roles and had to angle back and forth between them guided by the Dance Captain, a key player in every major musical. The Dance Captain is in command of everything going on, making certain the that choreography is maintained and keeping the look of the show as originally planned. When someone has to be out for whatever reason, the Dance Captain has to not only perform his or her designated role and know all the choreography, but also see that the missing members are replaced.
Earley’s extensive background in all aspects of performing is typical of those who eventually earn starring roles on Broadway. She began dancing lessons as a child in her hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania where she also studied Italian music and opera with voice teacher Cal Brackin until entering New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for Drama. There she spent the first two years specializing in musical theater, the third in experimental studies, and the fourth in classical studies, including Shakespeare. One of her favorite dance experiences along the way was attending the school for Washington Ballet.
Like all aspiring performers, Earley set a goal early on to be as well-rounded as possible to increase her employability. During the past ten years, she has performed, choreographed, directed cabarets and served as Dance Captain at several summer playhouses. In 2004, she was lead singer, dancer and manager on Holland-American cruise ships sailing to the Athens Summer Olympics.
As an actor, she has graduated from walk-ons to key roles like Luisa in “The Fantasticks” and Tiger Lily in “Peter Pan.” She had solo turns in the Las Vegas and Baltimore productions of “Beauty and the Beast” and was Dance Captain for “The Music Man” and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s USA Premiere of “Whistle Down the Wind.” After performing in the North American tour of “Ragtime,” she received rave reviews as Cassie in “A Chorus Line,” a role that earned her a Best Actress of the Season nomination for a 2010 Salt Award (Syracuse Area Live Theater). She loves that role and would be overjoyed to repeat it sometime in the future.
When she is not performing, Earley teaches ballet, point, jazz, tap, ballroom and Irish step dancing and currently has the pleasure of seeing one of her students in the cast of “Billy Elliot” on Broadway. She even spends her spare time on the road instructing cast members. Like her mother, a teacher, she loves working with others, especially children, and passing her knowledge on to them.
“‘Mary Poppins’ is a perfect show for children and for all ages,” she says. “After the show, I often stand in the audience and see the faces of fathers who probably were dragged there. They are all smiles. At this time in history when there is growing emphasis on the family, this show is especially relevant and offers a spiritual transformation.”