From Bratty to Brave....by Thomas Putnam
I'm afraid I've been a whiner the past few months. Being in a full-leg brace with a full-leg stocking underneath in 90 degree weather is just hard; so I'm afraid I've been whining about it. Trying to pick stuff off the floor whilst in a wheelchair? Waaa! Ever tried to sit down on a toilet with no handicapped bars and keeping your left leg completely straight? Yea, it's whine-able. Carrying a plate of food while walking with crutches. WAAA!
I'm also working on a musical called MARY POPPINS and in this musical—on stage more than anyone else—are two bratty children. Jane and Michael Banks. In the film they were just kinda Disney cute; in the stage musical you feel like dropping them off at some animal rescue spot. They are brats. Whiners. They're sassy to nanny's and selfish about toys and patronizing to hired help. And did I say these two characters are on stage more than anyone in the cast? And they sing. And dance. And are brats.
Where in the world (or Tioga County) would we find such youngsters? It's both the exciting part and the scary part of holding auditions; one never knows who might show up. We had about 10 kids audition. I thought there'd be more, but...one never knows. I cast two kids, one of whom I had worked with in CATS Jr this spring, and one I had never seen before. Give 'em the script and hope for the best.
And the best is what we got. These two kids are nailing these characters. Sing? Like pop stars. Dance? Maybe not Fred and Ginger, but they work like crazy on all the moves Taylor Nickerson throws at them. British accents? Like Charles and Camilla. Bratty? Well, it took some time, since these two are just simply nice, cooperative kids; bratty is foreign to them. But now, those early scenes in the musical are filled with these two bratty kids.
But then the Nanny arrives along with her host of angelic chimney sweeps who somehow help these kids—and all of us—realize that whining just doesn't cut it for anyone. There's a transformation (the stuff of any good script/story) and the eyes are opened. It's scary to realize that not all things are going to be rosy and self-serving and easy and good. Jane and Michael learn to be brave and face some pretty difficult challenges.
And Adailya and Collin get it. How we were able to get these two young actors in this show has been a very welcomed blessing. They were brave to come to auditions. They have been brave to jump in a cast of almost all adults and learn three huge dance numbers. They sing a lot through the show; sometimes with the whole chorus, and other times solos! How many adults are brave enough to stand in front of thirty adults while singing solos? They have been brave enough to even imagine getting in front of a large audience (here's hoping!) and sharing the lives of these two characters as they move from being bratty to brave.