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A few minutes with Nicolas Dromard of ‘Mary Poppins’

By |2018-01-16T10:19:03-05:00December 16th, 2010|Entertainment|

Nicolas Dromard stars as Bert in “Mary Poppins” at the Detroit Opera House through Jan. 2, 2011. Photo: Courtesy of Broadway in Detroit

On Dec. 16, one of the world’s most famous nannies swoops into Detroit when Mary Poppins lands at the Detroit Opera House for a special holiday visit. In the iconic role of Bert is Nicolas Dromard, who returns to the role he initially understudied – and later played – on Broadway. If the handsome actor looks familiar, his early career found him at the nearby Stratford Festival and, later, in a national tour of a smash-hit musical that played to sold-out crowds in Detroit. Dromard spoke recently to Between The Lines about his career – and where he plans to do much of his Christmas shopping this year!

Mary Poppins is one of the most beloved fictional characters in America thanks to the Disney film that continues to entertain generations of families through the miracle of Blu-ray and DVD. Were you a fan of hers – or the movie – growing up?
I remember watching the film when I was growing up. I saw it once or twice as a kid, but saw the movies in French. My parents are from Paris, moved to Canada 35 years ago and so I didn’t speak English until I was 7 years old. I loved the movie.

You left the San Francisco production of “Wicked” to play Bert in the national tour – but this is not your first encounter with the character or the musical, is it?
No, I was part of the original Broadway cast as a member of the ensemble and an understudy for Bert. I played the role on Broadway around 20 times before I came back to play the role on Broadway this summer.

Was it a difficult decision to make – to leave a successful musical for a life on the road? Was there a specific factor that helped you decide to pack your bags?
New York is home, so it wasn’t like I was leaving “home.” I had been in San Francisco for a year and a half and was ready to get back to the east coast and a change of scenery.
I had a great role in “Wicked” and I hope to do it again someday, but at that time I knew that Wicked in San Francisco was closing on Sept. 4, so it was a no-brainer for me since Bert is an amazing role. Traveling and seeing great cities all over America is such a fun experience, and I was ready to make Bert my own.

The role of Bert was made famous by Dick Van Dyke. Did the character’s pedigree cause you any concern about tackling the role? Did you feel like you had to mirror how Dick played the character?
Dick Van Dyke is an incredible actor and such an icon, but our director is so generous that he wants us to bring ourselves to the role as well as be honest with the character, so we are never trying to copy or imitate icons like Dick Van Dyke or Julie Andrews.
I’m sure audience members come to the show expecting to see imitations, but then are pleasantly surprised by the talent that comes off the stage. Our cast is truly amazing.

How difficult – or dangerous – are the dance numbers? Did you ever imagine you’d be dancing across rooftops in your career?
It’s a complete change of pace from “Wicked,” and there are some dangerous aspects to this show, but I never feel in danger. There are over 30 people in the wings always watching the show making sure that everybody is safe.
As an athlete, I have to take good care of my body as to not hurt myself doing this physically demanding role and to make sure I can bring 150 percent every show.

What’s the most fun part of the role for you as an actor? The most challenging?
As an actor, playing different roles is so much fun. Being able to create different roles and see them being born on stage or on film is incredible.
It’s also the most challenging when you are required to play an emotionally demanding role that drains you every night or makes you create scenarios that you haven’t experienced in life.

Besides living out of your suitcase, how different is it to perform the show on the road versus on Broadway? Or is there basically no difference?
There is basically no difference. The sets are slightly different, because they have to be able to take it apart and move it every three to four weeks, but the show and the caliber of the actors is the same as Broadway.

Have you noticed any differences in how Broadway audiences respond to the show versus the “regular folks” across America? Does one part of the country find certain things funnier than others do?
It’s hard to say, because audiences respond differently every night. Sometimes you’ll get very responsive audiences that are very attentive, and the next night you’ll get a very quiet audience.
Everybody loves the show and has a great time, but what we hear is different.
I think that there are more tourists that come see the show on Broadway, and when on tour it’s mostly people from those cities and suburbs that haven’t gone to New York yet and want to see the show.

You got your professional start right out of high school. Rather than head off to college to study music, you ended up in Branson, Mo., in “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” – and not in the famous kick-line, I assume (laughs). How did that come about?
I was in New York for the finals of New York City Dance Alliance, a dance competition, and there were two auditions that were organized by them: Florida Disney World Resorts and the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular.” I auditioned for both and was offered both, but decided to do the Christmas show, because honestly, who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by beautiful Rockettes and sing Christmas songs for two months! (Laughs)

From there you worked at Stratford – which means plenty of local theatergoers who will see you in “Mary Poppins” likely saw you at Stratford as well. How long did it take till you ended up on Broadway? And what show was that?
After the Stratford Festival, I was part of the original North American premiere cast of “Mamma Mia!” We started in Toronto and then on the pre-Broadway tour across America. When I was in Boston for three months with it, I went to New York to start auditioning for Broadway shows and my first audition was for Susan Stroman for the Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!” I got a callback for the following Monday and the rest is history.

You were also in the first national tour of “Wicked.” Were you in the production that came to Detroit a few years back? And if not, will this be your first visit to the Motor City?
Yes, I was part of the production that was in Detroit in 2006. I had a great time in Detroit, spent a lot of money in that gorgeous mall in Troy (laughs). I’m looking forward to doing all my Christmas shopping there!

You’ve had quite an interesting career so far. Do you know what your next gig will be after “Mary Poppins”? And if not, what would you like it to be?
I would love to play Tommy in “Jersey Boys,” that’s one goal of mine. And of course, originating a new role on Broadway wouldn’t be so bad either.

‘Mary Poppins’
Broadway in Detroit at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway St., Detroit. Tuesday-Sunday Dec. 16-Jan. 2; no performance Dec. 24. $25 and up. 313-872-1000 {}

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