We caught up with Stephen Mear, a Choreographer for Mary Poppins the Musical in London's West End.
How did you first come to work on Mary Poppins?
SM: It was Cameron Mackintosh who reached out to myself and Matthew [Bourne], it was strange at first because you don’t normally have two Choreographers on one show but I’m glad that we both accepted it, I can safely say that Cameron was absolutely right to request this. The show is enormous and having myself and Matthew working together gave it a little something extra special, our ideas and love for our craft made it so we complimented each other’s styles. I think people would have loved a bit of drama and to see us at each other’s throats but it was not the case at all. We worked differently but we blended perfectly and ideas flowed naturally together. I loved working with Matthew, he’s a genius!
What challenges did you face putting together the choreography on a production of this scale?
SM: Usually on large productions like this which involve amazing sets, fabulous costumes and special tricks, it can be a case of just making sure that they complement each other and the dance works with and around the design, or vice versa, we have to just make sure that all is thought through and discussed so that nothing will hinder the other but will enhance the effects we are trying to accomplish.
How does the collaboration process work with the rest of the creative team?
SM: First and foremost we have to make sure that we are all on the same page and know exactly which direction the show would be taking. We had a great deal of meetings working with the brilliant Director Richard Ayre and the vision he had going forward. Once we have that we start the process of seeing how the set, costume, lighting, music etc evolves to get a feel of the essence of the piece. Thankfully we had a great collaboration, we all worked well together and supported one another, ideas just kept bouncing off each other and that is what truly makes a production work and appear seamless.
Zizi Strallen (Mary Poppins), Charlie Stemp (Bert) and Company in Mary Poppins - Photo by Johan Persson
What changes have been made to the choreography in the show since the original production?
SM: It was great to get the opportunity to revisit the show and look at it with fresh eyes, we refreshed most areas of the dance sections and the tricks have been updated which was exciting to see, it’s amazing what a few years can do to the ever evolving ways of illusions. It’s given it a whole new lease of life.
What's your favourite number in the production?
SM: That’s a hard one…I would probably have to say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious as it’s very close to my heart and being dyslexic it was also a challenge, we had to stick the letters on the rehearsal room mirrors so it would help me to keep focused and follow it easier. Being able to incorporate a small section of sign language meant a lot to me, my partner Mark Smith is deaf and works hard as a choreographer, and as a director of a dance company called ‘Deaf Men Dancing’ to bring signing into mainstream theatre, I felt honoured to be able to do this and I also didn’t tell him, he saw it for the first time on the original opening night, his reaction was very much worth the wait.
Tell us about the fabulous cast in this production of Mary Poppins
SM: The cast are fantastic, they’re so talented and dedicated to the performances. Each are individual and bring their characters to life in their own unique way by adding their best attributes. It’s the cast that make you believe in the story. The music, dance, costume and set are what helps forward the narrative and provide the atmosphere to lose yourself in. It’s the cast that drive and bond all these together to make it the full experience.
Claire Machin (Mrs Brill) and Jack North (Robertson Ay) in Mary Poppins - Photo by Johan Persson
What do you think people love about Mary Poppins?
SM: It’s the story, the relatable characters who are fun and eccentric and the message to always find the time for the people you love. It brings the inner child in you back to the surface and it brings the joy and wonder to the little ones who still believe in the magic without a second thought. The music, dance, set and the talent of the cast make the show what it is, it’s a production that stays with you long after you have seen it.
What can audiences expect from this production?
SM: They can expect songs that stay with you, the original ones and of course the new ones by the brilliant Stiles and Drew who have managed to keep it true to the piece, so much so that people think the songs have always been a part of the original score. Sentiment that holds on to your heart, dancing that brings joy and the urge to join in. Adults will revert back to being children and along with them children will get lost in the magic of the set and the little surprises that appear throughout the show, people will fall in love with the characters as they take the journey with them, it’s complete and utter joyous.
See Mary Poppins the Musical in the West End at the Prince Edward Theatre. Secure your tickets today and book with Disney’s official box office, Disney Tickets.