On January 19, we started rehearsals here in Chicago for the first national tour of MARY POPPINS. I came in from New York, having packed up my car and humped it a third of the way across the country to where I’ll be living and working for the next six months. In my opinion, Chicago is different from New York mostly on two counts. First, the streets are much cleaner. Walking my dog, Po, on LaSalle, it’s a relief not to have to scan the sidewalk for discarded chicken bones and other such canine delicacies. Secondly, people in this town actually talk to each other while waiting for the train. I’m still having trouble getting used to that — but I’m hoping that I’ll warm up as the weather does. At this point, it doesn’t really matter, though, as I am nearly unrecognizable when I go out the door. Bundled up in layer upon layer to protect myself from the Chicago winter, I look like a beached manatee. Although I grew up in nearby Indianapolis, I had forgotten how bone-chilling this time of year can be. The first week of rehearsal it was so cold that the mucus literally froze in my nose. In. My. Nose. Perhaps I’ve grown soft since moving east, but shouldn’t there be some kind of warning on the radio or television when bodily fluids begin to freeze INSIDE the human body?
The upside to a Midwestern winter is that it gives us all a good excuse to eat hot comfort food. Though I have yet to come back to Chicago-style pizza (still preferring to fold my slice New York style) I can honestly say that the best remedy I’ve found for the cold is Tiparos Thai & Sushi on Clark Street. The Tom Kha soup is a true opiate, inducing a soft coma-like state that warms you inside and out. I get it with shrimp and it’s a profound epicurean experience after a long day of rehearsal!
And as for rehearsals. I’ve been here two weeks and the cast is amazing! Week one was spent with just the members of the Banks’ household: myself, Megan Osterhaus (Winifred Banks), Valerie Boyle (Mrs. Brill) and Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Robertson Aye), as well as the children alternating as Jane and Michael. We spent our time roughing through most of the family scenes. However, at the end of each day we would spend an hour or so learning some basic choreography to spell the letters in “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Five days of work and we only made it as far as “S-U-P-E-R-C-A-L-I-F-R-A-G-I-L…” Believe me, it was quite a haul. Then the second week the rest of the company joined us. That afternoon, our amazing ensemble learned all twenty-four letters in about twenty-four minutes. They are a fast, talented and game group of performers. (Don’t get me started on their morning warmups. At 10am when that thumping club beat kicks in in the dance studio, they’re like genetically engineered superdancers. I’ve never felt older or less coordinated in my life.)
We’re in the middle of our third week right now and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people with which to spend the next year. We start previews in March and if the first two weeks are any indication, I can tell you it’s going to be a fantastic show. Hope you’ll all come out and see us at 17 Cherry Tree Lane! We’ll stay until the wind changes…until the incredibly icy, bitterly cold Chicago wind changes.
-Karl Kenzler, George Banks in MARY POPPINS