Chimney Sweep

Traditional musical “Mary Poppins” drops into Detroit Opera Home – The Information Herald

Nicolas Dromard is having high-flying fun as Bert, the chimney sweep in the musical “Mary Poppins,” on stage at the Detroit Opera House through January 2nd. Photo by Joan Marcus

TV's “Supernanny” may correct bad behavior, but only a nanny adds magical powers and flying with an umbrella to her repertoire.

The musical “Mary Poppins” opened yesterday at the Detroit Opera House and promises to delight children and adults alike through January 2nd.

Directed by producer Cameron Mackintosh, the Disney musical is based on the fantasy book series by PL Travers and the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

The popular childhood story follows a magical nanny who works for the hapless family of a cold banker and features popular songs such as “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Step in Time” and “Supercalifraglisticexpialidocious.”

New songs by Olivier Award winners George Stiles and Anthony Drewe also grace the stage production.

The show premiered in London's West End in 2004, with a Broadway counterpart premiering two years later.

It received seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and Best Scenic Design.

A national tour began in Chicago in March 2009.

Nicolas Dromard takes on the role of chimney sweep Bert after spending the last 1 1/2 years as Fiyero in the San Francisco production of “Wicked.”

His enthusiasm for the plum part was evident during a recent telephone interview at a tour stop in Des Moines, Iowa.

“It’s such an incredible show,” Dromard said. “Of all the shows I have done, this is my favorite. I love performing it every night.”

He believes the timeless message speaks to everyone and still resonates today.

“Kids connect with the Disney magic and adults connect because they remember the movie,” he said.

“The story about the father trying to reconnect with his children and the mother feeling like she's lost her purpose – that's very timely, even though it's set in the early 20th century.”

The national tour is not Dromard's first foray into the role.

He was part of the original Broadway cast and understudy Bert before taking over the role of Gavin Lee.

While he realizes his performance will inevitably draw comparisons to Van Dyke's iconic performance, he's not worried about whether he can keep up.

“How great to have such a role model,” he said of the star. “I don’t try to copy anything he does, but rather put my own spin on it while staying true to the character.”

Born in Ottawa, Dromard began dancing at the age of six after being inspired by a film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

He studied music at De La Salle High School, a performing arts school in Ottawa, and participated in community theater and dance competitions in Canada and the United States.

After high school, he planned to study music in college, but while in New York City to compete in a dance competition finals, he auditioned for and booked “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular” in Branson, Missouri.

From there, his theater opportunities grew – “West Side Story” at the Stratford Festival in Canada, the North American premiere of “Mamma Mia,” “Oklahoma!” and “The Boy From Oz” on Broadway, “Hairspray” in Toronto, the first national Tour of “Wicked” and “Mary Poppins” on Broadway.

Dromard puts his talents to work in the role of the lovable Cockney Bert, taking the lead role in several songs, acting as narrator and dancing up a storm in the peppy number “Step in Time.”

“That’s my favorite number,” he said. “I get to knock upside down – how could you not like that?”

According to Dromard, new melodies, including Mary's introductory piece “Practically Perfect”, fit perfectly with the original numbers and flesh out the stories of the main characters.

“It's a perfect mix of favorite songs from the film and Travers' book and new songs that fit together so perfectly you'd think the entire score was written at the same time,” he said.

Bob Crowley's bizarre stage design provides a much-vaunted backdrop for the stage action.

“The tour set is incredible,” Dromard said. “We have a house that is more like a dollhouse or a pop-up book.

“It starts closed, then at the end of the show I come out and do a little intro and it comes to life.

“It is visually beautiful and amazes the mind.”

The magical world of “Mary Poppins” unfolds at the Detroit Opera House through January 2nd.

Tickets, starting at $25, are available at the Fisher Box Office, Ticketmaster locations, and by calling 1-800-982-2787.

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