Zizi Strallen is flying into Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre as Mary Poppins this week. We thought we’d ask her ten questions about playing everyone’s favourite nanny.
Hey Zizi! Were you a fan of Mary Poppins when you were a child?
Yes, I was a huge fan. I’ve seen the film so many times I can’t even tell you! I can’t really put my finger on what exactly it was that I loved most about it, but I think it’s the magic, the fact that Mary Poppins is magical – I think any person of any age loves a bit of magic.
What is the best thing about playing Mary Poppins?
Oh, I think this is a similar thing again – the fact that she’s magical, and that I get to fly! And also that every number is like a lesson in how to be a nice person – I think that’s really important. There are some really lovely lessons about bringing people together and being nice to each other.
Were you intimidated by Julie Andrews’ iconic performance when taking on the role?
Not really – only because I really, really love the way that Julie Andrews played Mary Poppins, so I didn’t want to do something completely different. I know most people really love the way she played it, so I don’t want to be a completely different Mary Poppins to what everyone is expecting. Of course I want to put my own stamp on it as well, so I read the books – because a lot of the story [of the show] is based more on the books than the film – and she’s a little bit different in the books. She’s a bit more stern and a bit more of a disciplinarian, so it’s kind of nice to have a mix of both.
What’s unique about your own performance as Mary?
Well, I really tried to look into the comedy of Mary Poppins, because I think she’s very funny. She’s very cheeky and she says a lot of things that can be quite sarcastic. I think it stops you in your tracks because you’re not necessarily expecting it. I also say everything very clearly – because Mary Poppins takes the time to say everything clearly so people can really understand everything she says, because every word, is, very, important.
What is your favourite moment in the show?
I think ‘Step In Time’ is the big showstopper, and it’s the most fun for me. It’s just a brilliant number; it’s got the majority of the company in it. It’s a huge tap number, and Bert tap-dances on the ceiling – it’s absolutely incredible! The kids are in it and the kids watching love it. I think that’s my favourite part of the show.
In what ways is the show different to the film?
Well, it’s more based on the books. A lot more of the scenes take place in the park – in the film, they jump into the painting, but in the show it’s Mary Poppins who turns the park into this beautiful, magical place where all the statues come to life. Also, we have a character in the show called Ms. Andrew who was Mr. Banks’ Nanny, and she’s really horrible. It explains a lot about Mr. Banks’ character!
Apart from Mary, what is the musical role you would most like to play, and why?
I think for me, I don’t really focus on one role that I want to do – in this business, you face rejection so often that if I really built myself up to play one role and then I auditioned for it and didn’t get it, I would think all my hopes and dreams were dashed! I kind of keep my options open and I’m a bit of an opportunist – if something came up for TV or film or another theatre that was completely different to Mary Poppins, I would be open to it. My last role, Lana (In Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man) was completely different. She was kind of a bad girl, and it was a dance company, so it was very different. So, I’m not focused on any particular role, but a role that would make me happy.
If you could have five people to dinner, dead or alive, who would they be?
Well, one would definitely be Julie Andrews! Not only did she play Mary Poppins, but in every interview I’ve ever seen of hers, she has brilliant values about being a performer and just being a person. She’s never a diva or anything like that, and she’s very intelligent and well spoken. I’d also love to bring the choreographer Bob Fosse, and the 1950’s actress Ann Miller – who is one of my idols. I think Marin Scorsese would be fascinating to talk to. And I think someone who everyone would love to talk to would be Marilyn Monroe.
Who would play you in the film of your life?
Oh gosh, I don’t think I’m interesting enough yet for a film… I don’t know… me?!
The meaning of life, according to Zizi?
I think the most important thing is to be happy. Whatever it is that you do in life, it should make you happy. Whether it’s long-term or short term, if you’re going to take a job, or sell a house, or a buy a house, or have a child, or go on a date, or whatever – if you honestly think it will make you happy then you should do it.
Mary Poppins runs at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from October 23 to March 29, 2020, click here to book tickets now.
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