Arts

Interview: Lucy Maunder – Flying into Adelaide this weekend with Mary Poppins

Lucy Maunder discusses Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins ahead of the Adelaide season

Spit spot, Adelaide! Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s much loved musical, Mary Poppins, lands this week. From July 1 until August 27, this magical musical will be calling the Festival Theatre home for the very first time.

Based on the beloved stories by Australian author PL Travers and the original Disney film, the Tony and Olivier award-winning production of Mary Poppins is a theatrical spectacular that has delighted tens of millions of people around the globe. 

Ahead of the Adelaide season, the incredible Lucy Maunder, who plays Mrs Banks in this production, sat down for a chat with Glam Adelaide. Since completing her training at WAAPA in 2006, Lucy has appeared in a large number of musicals, films, TV shows and concerts, as well as a number of award nominations for her work. Lucy shared with Glam what led her down the path to a career in the performing arts industry.

“I think my parents were always hopeful that I would want to go down the route of medicine or law, but unfortunately there was never anything else that I wanted to do, or felt like anything else was meant to be for me,” Lucy laughed.

“I grew up in an artistic family – both my parents were with the Australian Opera all through my childhood. My dad was a resident director and my mom was a principal soprano with Australian Opera. I grew up just adoring musical theatre, but spent most of my childhood doing dancing and ice skating rather than singing. And I didn’t sing until I went to WAAPA when I was 18. It was pretty much my first time having a singing lesson. I did three years of a music theatre degree at WAAPA and graduated in 2006 and have been fortunate to have been working in a professional capacity ever since.”

In the musical adaptation of the beloved Mary Poppins, the role of Mrs Banks has been fleshed out compared to the 1964 movie.

“She’s got such a heart and she’s right there from the beginning, just trying to see the best in George Banks and put the family at the front and centre of their worlds – she works super hard at that. She’s also fun, funny and just very quirky, but also just really heartfelt and warm. Mrs Banks is just a gorgeous role to play.”

“When P.L. Travers wrote the book, she never really fleshed out the character of Winifred Banks. I think she had based the role on her mother, who she didn’t get along with at all. When Walt Disney came and asked for the rights for the movie, they made Winifred this suffragette character and P.L. Travers always hated that. When Cameron Macintosh went to her and said he wanted to do the musical, she said but wasn’t allowed to have her as a suffragette. He fleshed out Winifred to be much more than she is in the book.”

The score draws on the beloved music of the Sherman brothers with additional new songs and arrangements by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Lucy shared some of her favourite numbers in the show.

“From an audience perspective Step in Time is the one that’s just so overwhelmingly incredible in every way. From start to finish it’s just a feast for the eyes and ears and just hits you so hard. I also love A Spoonful of Sugar and the whole scene that surrounds that in the kitchen. That’s probably my favourite part of performing the show.”

During the rehearsal process, Lucy told us about how much flexibility she had when bringing the role of Mrs Banks to life.

“When you’re remounting a show that’s already got a lighting plot, the set plot and everything else that goes with it, you have to hit certain marks because of the technical elements that go with it. We had a five week rehearsal period where James Powell, our director, was incredibly open to us bringing our own take on the roles dramatically and with intent and acting. Having the ability to put our own little spin on things is always great as you can really connect more deeply with a character.”

Mary Poppins has already been extremely well received in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and now it is Adelaide’s turn.

“It’s so nostalgic for every generation. We see the whole family in the audience – grandparents, their kids and their grandkids. It’s a show for the whole family. The effects are phenomenal, the sets are phenomenal, the costumes are beautiful; it looks so gorgeous and it sounds so gorgeous. It really has something for everyone. We’ve been doing the show for over a year now and it’s gotten a unanimously incredible reaction wherever we go. People just adore the story, people adore the songs. It’s just a very high quality Disney Spectacular.”

Mary Poppins will be playing at the Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre from July 1, 2023. Tickets and further information can be found at www.marypoppinsmusical.com.au .

Interview by Ben Stefanoff

Photo credit: Daniel Boud

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