Something about Mary: Behind the scenes with Kara Lindsay as Mary Poppins

Kara Lindsay as Mary Poppins. // Photo by Curtis Brown photography.

It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious — even the sound of it! — as North Carolina Theatre sweeps in (see what we did there? Chim Chim Cher-ee!) its summer production of “Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins,” based on the Disney movie of the same name. You know the one: about the “practically-perfect,” peculiar, bottomless-bag toting, spoon-sugaring English nanny whose brought in to shape up the Banks children via a host of magical adventures.

Kara Lindsay PR
Kara Lindsay.

Set to play Poppins in her North Carolina Theatre debut is Rochester, N.Y., native and Broadway alum Kara Lindsay. Proudly hailing from the home of Wegmans (Rochester, obv) with a childhood pedigree in competition dance, Lindsay cut her stage chops in a middle school musical production of “Pirates of Penzance.” “They needed more ‘tapping cops.’ … I could tap and I wanted to be with my friends, so it worked out well!” says the then incredibly shy actress.

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Growing to love the art of storytelling and live theater’s ability to transcend reality and really reach people — ” I wanted to make people feel the way I did as a wide-eyed audience member” — Lindsay’s tapping cop transcended too: first, to Carnegie Mellon (“Poppins” director Eric Woodall is also a CMU grad), where she studied acting/musical theater; and ultimately, on Broadway.

A long way from Penzance, Lindsay made her Broadway debut in 2012 as journalist Katharine Plumber in the Disney musical “Newsies,” and, since, most notably, as Glinda in “Wicked.” She’s also taken center stage on a host of national tours, including “Little House on the Prairie” (Laura), “Cinderella” (Cinderella), and “Cabaret” (Sally Bowles).

Before the curtain rises on Lindsay as Poppins, ArtsNow got her to go off-script about what it’s like to play the iconic nanny, her North Carolina debut and her obsession with peanut butter (yes, peanut butter).

Mary. Talk about lore. What’s it like to play her?

No pressure at all, right?! We all have an idea of who Mary Poppins should be. And it will be hard to live up to that magnificent idea in people’s minds. She is ‘practically perfect in every way.’ She has an important story to tell, and my goal is to do that justice. Delving into this material has literally brought me to tears at times! She teaches the most beautiful life lessons that often adults need to hear more than children. I feel incredibly lucky to get to step into her magical shoes!

You’re a perfect fit for those shoes. How significant is this role in your career?

Incredibly! I auditioned for this role when it was on Broadway. And Eric Woodall, our director, was casting it! This may be the most challenging role to date for me. And I’m learning it in less than two weeks! Challenges allow for growth, and I cannot wait for it!

‘Mary Poppins’ has quite the following with audiences. Why is this production a must-see?

“Mary Poppins” has won all of our hearts! She is a mystery in the most beautifully fascinating way. She brings out the innocent child in everyone. She has this ability to convince you that anything in the world is truly possible. Flying in on umbrella? Yeah why not! This production is a must-see for all ages. In fact, she says that her lessons are more for the adults than the children. And now that I’ve read the material, I see why.

Speaking of the message, what’s your fave song in this musical?

“Feed the Birds.” Simple and pure with a beautiful message.

Indeed. Any pre-show rituals that you carry out?

Yoga stretches, a thorough vocal warm up and lots of ginger candies (smiling). Also Kathy Fitzgerald, who is in the cast, was also in “Wicked” with me for a very long time. She’d come into my dressing room ALL the time, so we basically shared a dressing room, and I’d have it no other way! She is a hoot! I’m sure there will be all the shenanigans.

This is your NC Theatre debut — how is that change of pace from Broadway?

This is my NC Theatre debut! I’m so excited! My husband is from Black Mountain, so we visit quite a bit. We came through North Carolina on the “Little House on the Prairie” tour, where I was playing Laura, and my now husband, Kevin Massey, was playing Almanzo. We met doing that show (smiling). North Carolina holds a special place in our hearts.

We love to hear that. Anywhere you are excited to visit, do or eat while in town?

Some yummy BBQ?! Any recommendations?

Get to The Pit, stat! … Greatest career moment to date — or fave role (sans this one):

Nothing like a Broadway debut, so I’d have to say Katherine in “Newsies!”

Great one. Now behind the scenes … word on the street is something about a peanut butter stash…?

Yeahhhhh I have a problem. For a while there I couldn’t keep any in the cupboard because it would disappear in a day or two!! … That’s just unhealthy! But I just love me some peanut butter. My family always has a jar for me for when I come home to visit. It’s sad.

“Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins”
July 26-31, Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
Tickets: $25-$122; buy here, or call  Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000
For groups of 10 or more, call 919- 831-6941 x6949
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