DIVA TALK: Chatting With Mary Poppins Star Steffanie Leigh

By Andrew Gans
17 Aug 2012

Leigh as Mary Poppins
Photo by Joan Marcus

Question: So you were in the ensemble originally…
Leigh: Yeah. And then from there, they needed a Mary Poppins about four months from when I was there, so I auditioned, and I got Mary. And then they moved me here to New York.

Question: What was it like for you in the tour going from being part of the ensemble to being the head of the cast?
Leigh: It was actually a pretty smooth transition… Since I had already been in the ensemble, I had all of their support. I knew all of them, and I really felt like I had them rooting for me the whole time, which was a great feeling. I had to sleep a lot more when I played Mary Poppins. [Laughs.] I couldn't go out as much… But it was great! And, it all just seemed like a complete dream come true the way it happened.

Question: When you found out that you would be doing the role on Broadway, what was your reaction?
Leigh: I was just so excited! I definitely started crying. [Laughs.] It's a dream come true, and it happened so fast. It was pretty magical, should I dare say that? It was kind of funny because as soon as I found out, I went to go call my mom and my boyfriend, and my phone didn't work! I could call them—I could hear them, but they couldn't hear me. It was just complete torture.

Question: What was your first night on Broadway like? Did it live up to what you might have expected?
Leigh: It completely did. I will never forget it. I had a bunch of friends in the audience and my family—they were all just cheering so loud. And, at the end, when I fly over the audience, they were all seated directly where I fly over. So I flew over, I was looking at my parents. Yeah, I'll never forget it.

Leigh and Gavin Lee at her first-night curtain call
photo by Krissie Fullerton

Question: What was their reaction?
Leigh: Oh, they were crying!

Question: How did you go about approaching the role? Had you been a fan of the film?
Leigh: Yeah. I did watch the film a little bit. I watched it, of course, growing up, so it had a big impression on me from then. And then I just read all the books by P.L. Travers. The creative team is really great in allowing me to create my own Mary Poppins and not have to be Julie Andrews and be any of the amazing actors who played her before me. It's such a fantastic role. I mean, she's this magical being, so it's always fun to play someone with special powers. And, she has such an amazing heart and love of everything around her. I still kind of learn from her every night that I play her.

Question: What's it like working on that huge set?
Leigh: Amazing! The set on tour was also amazing, but not as large. And, I mean, the set is kind of a character in itself in the show. It's so massive and beautiful—beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! So it kind of is awe-inspiring. There are a lot of stairs I have to run up. [Laughs.]