By Andrew Gans
17 Aug 2012
This past October, Broadway welcomed a new nanny when Steffanie Leigh flew into the New Amsterdam Theatre to play the title role in the international hit musical Mary Poppins. Coming directly from the North American tour of the Disney-Cameron Mackintosh show, Leigh, who is currently scheduled to stay with the production through April 2013, is making her Broadway debut. The singing actress, who shares the stage with original cast member Tony Award nominee Gavin Lee as Bert, has been seen regionally in productions of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Beauty and the Beast, 42nd Street, Into the Woods, Grease, Mame and Les Miserables. Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with Oregon native Leigh, who spoke about playing the high-flying nanny and making her Broadway bow; that brief interview follows.
Question: Since we haven't spoken before, can you tell me where you were born and raised?
Steffanie Leigh: Yes. I was born and raised in Talent, Oregon.
Question: When did you start performing?
Leigh: I think I really got curious about it in middle school—middle school and high school.
Leigh: Right next to Talent is also another small town called Ashland, and Ashland, OR, has the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, so I was in a community that loved the arts so much and kind of loved artists and actors. And, I think that was a big influence on why I wanted to become an actor. No one ever around me said, "No, don't do this. This is a crazy profession. It's really hard." So I think that was very helpful.
Question: When do you think, in your mind, performing changed from being a hobby to knowing that it would be your career?
Leigh: I think in high school. By the time I got to high school, which seems so early, but we just had a great theatre program, and that's really when I fell in love with acting.
Question: What was your first professional production?
Leigh: Well, I did summer stock at Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, so that was my first professional job as a freshman in college that summer.
Question: How did Mary Poppins come about?
Leigh: With Mary Poppins, I had come to New York—I just graduated. I was actually a nanny here in New York to supplement my income, and then I auditioned for the tour. At that point, it was for the ensemble track and for the cover of Mary. I actually wasn't even going to go on the audition because I had booked out to take a vacation with my family, and on that Monday my agents called. They were like, "Well, this audition came up. I know you're going on vacation. Do you want to do this?" And, it sounded like such a good opportunity, I was like, "Oh, I'll go in." I did the audition, and then I left to go to Vermont with my family, and I got the call while I was there. I had to leave early, and a week later I was in Florida.