Six Greek Australians are gracing Melbourne’s stage in Mary Poppins the musical: Natalie Alexopoulos, Mark Balas, Dion Bilios, Angelique Cassimatis, Mitchell Fistrovic and Kurtis Papadinis. And we thought ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ was a mouthful!
The ‘practically perfect’ cast members spoke to Neos Kosmos, at Her Majesty’s Theatre this week, between matinee and evening performances.
Youngest cast member, Kurtis Papadinis, 10, who shares the role of Michael Banks with four other boys went through gruelling auditions to score the role.
“It was very hard, there were five auditions, there were a lot of kids there,” he said. The Melbourne native said he was “amazed” when he scored the dream part.
Following two months of intensive training before the show opened in July, Kurtis now performs around two shows a week, does onset schooling with a tutor and attends regular school at least one day a week. But there’s no complaining from this busy bee.
“I’m really enjoying it, I don’t have a favourite part, I think everything’s the best,” he said. “I definitely want to stay in theatre.”
Mark Balas, who also plays Michael Banks, is thriving on the experience as well. One of the hardest parts of the gig is speaking in a “posh” English accent, the well versed 11 year old said, before launching into a hilarious impression of the vocal training he and the other boys endured.
“Basically what we do is we stretch our jaws and say ‘I, my, how, now, upside down, Banks,” he said, while the other cast members cheered him on. “Sometimes we slip into our Australian accents but we mostly do our posh voices,” he said.
The grade six Melbourne boy and self professed Poppins fan said he would love to continue with a career in showbiz. “I wish I could be a tennis player but it hasn’t actually happened,” he joked.
Natalie Alexopoulos, 31, who plays Katie Nanna among other roles, described Mary Poppins as great fun.
“It’s a lovely show. We have such a great mix backstage from the kids right up to the…well I won’t give away our oldest cast members’ ages, but we have some more mature cast members. I’m somewhere in the middle,” she joked.
While her younger peers are jumping around onstage, Natalie said she gets to “wear a corset and push a pram across the stage”.
Dion Bilios, 23, credited as ‘Kite Boy’ but also performing other parts, has been dancing, singing and acting since he was three or four years old.
During his career, including ten years at Brent Street Studios, the Sydneysider has performed in Les Miserables, Oliver, and AFI award winning film Soft Fruit.
“I’ve just been dancing, singing, and acting my whole life. Musicals combine everything I want to do, I think that’s the same for all of us, we all love singing, dancing, acting and having fun and that’s the main thing; it’s just fun,” he said.
Dion, who is Natalie’s cousin, is also linked to fellow cast member Mitchell Fistrovic.
“Dion and I played the same part in Oliver, he did it in Sydney and I did it in Melbourne,” Mitchell, who plays the role of Nelius, said. The 19 year old Melburnian has been dancing since he was young but describes Mary Poppins as his first big break into the industry.
Angelique Cassimatis, 22, who plays Kite Girl, describes being in the musical as a “dream come true”. Originally from Brisbane, Angelique said after performing in a show in 2009, which closed early, she stayed in Sydney performing gigs and was lucky enough to be offered a role in Mary Poppins.
“I was also offered another show but I chose Mary Poppins because it’s a bit more exciting and you grow up with Mary Poppins, you know? It’s like a dream!” she said.
Sharing the stage with the likes of Marina Prior, Debra Byrne and Judy Connelli is almost surreal, the cast members said.
“They’re legends, but they’re so nice and they’ve been doing it for so long; they’re always having fun with us,” Dion said. “There’s some amazing people, you just have to pinch yourself when you see Marina Prior,” Angelique added.
With a routine and performing schedule almost as tight as the corsets, the cast said staying fit and healthy is essential.
“The corset keeps you on the straight and narrow, the girls get strapped into the corset for most of the show,” Natalie said, adding “if you don’t eat properly or eat sensibly and look after yourself you can’t get through the show. It’s a need not a want”.
And the cast members cannot sing the show’s praises loudly enough.
“It’s truly quite magical and you’ll be amazed by how much can be achieved on a stage in terms of creating the magic that you loved from the movie. It’s a beautiful story; you have to bring all your family,” Natalie said.
The show creates effects you couldn’t imagine possible onstage, Angelique added. “It’s kind of pushed the boundaries of normal theatre and it’s like an experience; it’s not just going to see a show,” she said.