DIVA TALK: Chatting With Mary Poppins Star Steffanie Leigh

By Andrew Gans
17 Aug 2012

Leigh as Cinderella in Into the Woods.

Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show as Mary?
Leigh: It kind of changes week to week, but I always love "Feed the Birds." It's such a gorgeous, haunting melody and, I think, a beautiful sentiment as well when she's teaching the kids, "If you can give a little, you can change someone's life." I also love "Supercal" because you can feel the audience kind of get behind you, and they're like, "Oh! I love this song that's coming up" and getting so excited about it.

Question: You mentioned before being a real nanny. How did that compare to playing one?
Leigh: Well, being a real nanny is really hard! [Laughs.] It's much harder than Mary Poppins makes it out to be. Mary Poppins has so many tricks! I had no tricks, so it was much harder for me.

Question: What was the craziest situation you faced?
Leigh: Well, I had a one-and-a-half-year-old and a three-and-a-half-year-old, so putting them to bed was the hardest thing always. They never wanted to take their naps, and Mary Poppins just gets to snap her fingers, and they fall asleep.

Question: Tell me what it's like flying through the audience at the end of the show.
Leigh: It's great! I mean, so rarely, as an actor, do you get to connect with and see that much of the audience. It's kind of my favorite part because the lights go on the audience, and I can really see the entire audience at that point, and I try to make connections with everyone. And, you look down and see the kids who are just reaching up to you and so excited their mouths are just wide open. And then I look right next to them, and the parents have the exact same expression. A couple times, I've actually teared up on the flight because I see some amazing moments happening for people in the audience.

Question: How demanding is the show vocally?
Leigh: It is a big sing, definitely. She just has so many songs, and luckily, it sits in my voice pretty well, so it's nothing too crazy, but this is definitely my first experience having to carry a show at all, so it's been a big learning experience for me to figure out what I can and cannot do during the day and before a show and how to do eight shows a week.

Leigh in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Question: I was looking at your bio before, and I saw that you have a lot of different regional credits. Was there one production, regionally, that stood out for you?
Leigh: I loved doing Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. I did that in Atlanta, and it was just such a crazy, kooky show. I did not have any exposure to Jacques Brel before that, and I kind of fell in love with him there. I think that was one of my favorites.

Question: Where would you like to see your career go from here? What's your ideal situation?
Leigh: If I got to pick what my career would be like, I would love a career of a lot of variety and a lot of roles that just challenge me and make me grow and stretch and that said important things. As an artist, we all want to make people think and change people in some ways and have a mark on the world, so I would love to do that kind of work.

Question: Last question: Tell me about working with your co-star, Gavin Lee.
Leigh: Oh, he is so inspiring and so incredible. I could not believe he's in his eighth year, and he has so much energy every night. I am not kidding you—he makes it fresh still. It's amazing. He kind of just lifts you up on stage, and whenever we're working together, I really feel like he's picking me up and taking me along with him. He has so much energy, and it's really, really incredible to work with someone who's originated this role and is still so passionate about this show.

[For tickets, show information and performance schedule, visit MaryPoppins.com.]

That's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.