Chicago actress Summer Naomi Smart admits she has never seen any of the touring stage musical runs of "Disney's Mary Poppins."
Just a few years ago, Smart was one of the talents considered for the role of the world's most beloved nanny for casting in New York.
"I really wanted to play the role of Mary Poppins, but at the time, it didn't work out," said Smart, who just completed starring as Princess Fiona in the Chicago Shakespeare Theater summer staging of the musical "Shrek" at Navy Pier.
"Now, I have my chance."
Smart steps into the famous heel-clicking, high-button shoes of Poppins for the title role for a new production directed by Gary Griffin at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Ill. for a long run Oct. 23 through Jan. 5, 2014.
From the irresistible story to the unforgettable songs to the breathtaking dance numbers, this new imaginative staging of "Mary Poppins" features choreography by Alex Sanchez and musical direction by Michael Mahler.
Based on P.L. Travers' cherished stories and the classic 1964 Walt Disney film, this "Mary Poppins" features the hit magical score including "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and "Let's Go Fly a Kite" by the Academy Award-winners Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman. The stage production was created, in collaboration with Cameron Mackintosh, by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes and the Olivier Award-winning team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe's new songs and additional music and lyrics.
"I had read the book previously, when I was preparing the New York auditions," Smart said.
"For me, this is an extra special role and opportunity, because it feels so personal. Of all the song numbers, and I love them all, the one that is the most hauntingly beautiful for me is 'Feed the Birds.' When I hear it, I always feel so many emotions."
Opposite Smart is actor Bernie Yvon as Bert the Chimney Sweep and stage favorites Rod Thomas and Susan Moniz as the Mr. and Mrs. Banks and alternating as the Banks children, it's Johnny Rabe and Brady Tutton sharing the role of Michael Banks and Caroline Heffernan and Madison Gloria Olszewski alternating the role of Jane Banks.
The regional all-star cast also includes Paula Scrofano, John Reeger, Matthew Crowle, Rebecca Finnegan, Johanna McKenzie Miller, William Carlos Angulo, Lauren Blane, Jaclyn Burch, Jameson Cooper, Devin DeSantis, Raymond Interior, Ericka Mac, Adam Rogers, Sam Rogers, Amanda Tanguay, Brandi Wooten and Melissa Zaremba.
Director Griffin said he wanted to do this production because of the challenge it represented to conceive and develop staging for this stage story utilizing Marriott Theatre's unique "theater-in-the-round" performance space.
"If it's something I don't know how I'm going to do, that's when I'm the most inspired to make it happen and add an element of surprise for the audience," Griffin said.
"I know there are a lot of expectations for this production and that's the way it should be."
He said the musical will be two and a half hours, with one-intermission, and every song and word of dialogue from the Broadway run remain intact.
"After audiences see our production, they will leaving thinking 'Mary Poppins' is a musical that was meant to be played on the Marriott stage," Griffin said.