A Jolly Holiday
This holiday season, Theatre Under The Stars is presenting an eye-popping, spectacular, and wonder-filled production of the Disney classic Mary Poppins. Based on the Disney film and book by P.L. Travers, this brand-new production of the hit musical runs December 6-24 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
As the cast gathers and rehearsals begin — mere weeks before the first performance — CultureMap sat down with Olivia Hernandez, who plays the practically perfect nanny, to talk flying, family bonding, and finding new ways to approach such an iconic character.
CultureMap: Is this your first time picking up the umbrella and playing Mary Poppins?
Olivia Hernandez: It's not actually — I've played her once before, and I think Mary is the prefect convergence of my skills. Not only is she vocally exciting for me to sing, but I relate to her a lot.
CM: How so?
OH: She's such a complex character. She's fun and imaginative but also firm and determined. I was reading the P.L. Travers book that the musical and movie are based on and had so much to discuss with our director, Julie Kramer. Mary is so unexpected at every turn!
The first adjective the book uses to describe her is "vain," and I had always wondered what that was about. But when you think about it, she is very put together and particular about things, especially the way she looks. She knows how something is supposed to be, and won't settle for anything less. She's not your typical archetype.
CM: What's it like bringing this iconic character to life?
OH: It’s challenging, because first and foremost I want to be a Mary Poppins that people recognize, and not confuse anyone. But since the musical is a little different from the movie that everyone is so familiar with, and incorporates some elements from the book, it gives me the chance to bring myself to the role.
It's a challenge to put all those things together, but hopefully we're coming up with an end result that makes people think more about her than they ever have before.
CM: You said rehearsals just began — have you started flying yet?
OH: Not yet, but I'm so looking forward to it! I've never flown before, but I'm very unafraid of heights so I'm excited to get up there.
CM: What's your personal favorite part of the show?
OH: "Feed the Birds," for sure. It's just such a beautiful song, so haunting and touching, and Susan Koozin is incredibly moving when she sings it. That specific moment in the musical is a very important lesson that Mary is teaching Jane and Michael, and it's a song that sticks with everyone.
CM: Why should Houstonians come see the show this holiday season?
OH: It’s such a great show to bring your whole family to. There are lessons to be learned by everyone in this show, and the whole family learns to reconnect with each other through Mary Poppins. That's a really relevant lesson right now, as a lot of us are disconnecting from each other (especially while connecting more to our phones).
This show helps you remember what’s important, and it's perfect for the holidays for that reason, especially after a really rough two years.
And what’s not to love? Every time we bring up Mary Poppins to someone, people have such warm feelings about it. I get it! I grew up watching the movie and it's my husband's absolute favorite movie. It's special when something has that sort of staying power.
I also think it’s really wonderful to see such a diverse group of people in our cast. In a lot of ways, this cast really reflects what Houston looks like, with people from many different backgrounds and abilities and a lot of young people. It's exciting to see them all and see what we create together.
TUTS' production of Mary Poppins runs December 6-24, 2022, at the Hobby Center for Performing Arts. Click here to purchase tickets.