A chat with “Poppins” dance captain, Elizabeth Earley

The Signal got the chance to chat with  Elizabeth Earley, “Mary Poppins”’ dance captain. “Mary Poppin” will be showing at Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theatre April 2-7. 

Elizabeth Early is the Dance Captain of the Disney production of "Mary Poppins."
Elizabeth Early is the Dance Captain of the Disney production of “Mary Poppins.”

The Signal: What is a “dance captain”?

Elizabeth Earley: A dance captain has several duties. A dance captain is the individual who maintains the choreography of a show as originally given by the choreographer. That person creates a record of the show (most often in a book format with diagrams of the staging) and is in charge of teaching the show to any replacement cast members. Also, the dance captain is required to keep a close watch on the performers to make sure they are doing the choreography as intended and the dance captain is to give corrections to the cast as needed. Additionally, the dance captain acts as a liason between cast members if a choreographic issue occurs.


TS: How long have you been touring with Mary Poppins?

EE: I have been touring Mary Poppins since January 2010. It has been a blast! I have toured a couple times in the past, but I have never spent anywhere near as much time on a tour as Mary Poppins. It is a great job!


TS: What should people expect to be different between the stage version of Mary Poppins and the movie?

EE: Our Broadway staging draws from the best of the movie but also the book series by P. L. Travers. Audience members who have seen the movie will recognize their favorite tunes and characters, but will learn about the journey of the Banks family in detail beyond the movie.


TS: How does being on the road for long periods of time affect your relationships?

EE: This is a great question. It can be difficult to be away from friends and family for a very long time. Most cast members have not been away much longer than a year, but Facebook, email, and cellphones help to keep the connections you want to maintain. It requires a good deal of effort to keep some relationships, especially romantic relationships, intact. In my experience, omantic relationships can weather if two people are apart for too long, but I believe it is absolutely possible between the right people. Friendship-wise, I find my closest relationships are those that require the least amount of maintenance in which I can see my friend and pick up right where we left off the last time.


TS: What do you like most/least about being on the road?

EE: I love exploring this incredible country and seeing what the local communities have to offer. There is so much to see and learn; however, I don’t like having to move my things every week. The luggage seems to get heavier every week and there is more to leave behind by accident! I also long to be able to have a home and a family of my own, but I am grateful for the wonderful tour family I have now.

TS: Do you consider yourself an actor who sings and dances? 

EE: A dancer who acts and sings? A singer who acts and dances? I started as a dancer. I picked up singing. Then I trained in acting. In each of these areas I have trained intensely and separately before integrating them. Most people would say they are strongest in one area or another. I have always made it my goal to attack my weaknesses till they are very strong, so I would honestly say I am a dancer/singer/actress in no particular order. It just so happens that I am employed as more of a dancer on this gig, but I look forward to “switching it up” in the future.


TS: Who and/or what inspires you?

EE: I am constantly inspired by my cast, crew, and creative team. They draw together, no matter what the backstage circumstances, to tell a beautiful story. They are consistently inspiring. Also, I am moved to action when I think of my parents, family, and teachers who have taught and supported me over the years.


TS: How has formal training made you more prepared for “pounding the pavement”?

EE: I am an entirely different person than I was or could have been after training in college. I have so many more tools in my belt than I would have had to make me as employable and marketable an artist as possible. I even studied Shakespeare for an entire year in college to strengthen my ability as an actor in musical theater and beyond. I was fortunate to have the opportunity I have had, but I cherish passing on the knowledge by teaching what I have learned.


TS: What has been your best/worst experience on stage?

EE: Worst: I was playing Fruma Sarah in “Fiddler on The Roof” on opening night in a summerstock production a while back. I had a mental block about the lyrics I was to sing. The problem was that the entire cast had to repeat the lyrics back to me, for emphasis. I couldn’t remember the lyrics so I sang “ba-da-da-da-da-da…” and ensemble snickering and sheepishly responded “ba-da-da-da-da-da…” Then, I had to sing the 2nd verse…And it happened all over again. Best: Performing and completing my nine tracks as a swing in the first year of Mary Poppins on tour. What a relief it was! Also, performing the cover for Mrs. Banks on tour and playing the role of Cassie in “A Chorus Line”…. joyful moments I will cherish.

TS: What is your dream gig?

EE: This has honestly been an absolute dream job. I have had many, many other jobs that were not well-paying, extremely difficult, and soul-grating. I am grateful for those experiences because I learned gratitude for the incredible blessing of a job I currently have. I do want to perform as a singer/ dancer/ actress in a successful original cast production on Broadway in the future! But I will continue to be grateful for this moment that I have to share this wonderful story on tour for two more months. It’s been a beautiful journey for me, both onstage and off.