Studio Visit: Kari Croop
Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, a chat with Kari Croop. The freelance writer/editor, actress and mother of triplets will portray Mary Poppins in the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company production opening July 31 at the Parkland Theatre. She recently chatted with The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli.
Q: Are you going to do a British accent in "Mary Poppins"?
A: Yes, and there's some Cockney in the show, spoken by other characters.
Q: Have you ever played Mary Poppins before?
A: I've been accused of being Mary Poppins but I have not played her before. I think the perception is I have triplets and people see pictures of us and think our lives are so orderly, happy and amazing. They are but there's a lot of craziness that comes along with having triplets.
My closest friends wonder, "How do you do it?" Some people think it's magic, but I'm just a normal person and I tell them if they had to do it, they could too.
Q: Are you drawing on being a mom, though, to play Poppins?
A: I think so. Mary Poppins is a really interesting character. For most people, their reference is the Disney film. I read the first of the six Mary Poppins books when I first got the role.
One of the challenges for me, as an actress, is reconciling the Disney version of Mary Poppins — Julie Andrews — with the one in the books written by P.L. Travers.
There is a difference in the musical too. It's not a copy and paste of the movie. It blends a lot of the characters and storylines from the books with the Disney film.
The Mary Poppins of the book is actually very prim, proper and no-nonsense, with very little sweetness. She was quite vain and so she's not the really loving nanny that Disney created.
One of the nice things about the musical is she does go through a bit of a transformative arc. I think during the course of the show, she develops a little softness for the Banks children.
Q: When did you and your husband move to Champaign?
A: We moved here from Atlanta in the fall of 2006, but I didn't do my first show with CUTC until the summer of 2007. It was "Beauty and the Beast"; I played Madame de la Grande Bouche, an opera singer who turned into a piece of furniture when the house was cast under a spell.
I'm not a professional actress. I didn't study theater. I guess I'm a person who has been very practical so I chose journalism (her major at Northwestern University). It seemed a better way to go for me. I was excited when we moved here because I worked from home so had time for community theater.
It had been a long time for me — I had not done any theater in college or during my first year as a writer and editor. The last show I did before becoming a mom was "Into the Woods" in 2011. I played Cinderella, and a couple of months later I became pregnant.
Since I did my last show, the juggling act is very real — juggling the kids and my job during the day and the show at night. These have probably been the most intense rehearsals I've had. We started in May. It's four to five times a week, usually three hours a night. We sometimes have Saturday rehearsals — we just had one from 10 to 5. That means my husband, Andrew, has to be here with the kids.
Q: Are you flying in the show?
A: We are. We have an entire day set aside for flying work — the Sunday before we open, from 1 to 5 p.m., followed by a full tech run from 6 to 10. We're using a company out of Chicago that specializes in flying work.
People ask if I'm nervous. I haven't allowed myself to think or worry about that. I have so much on my plate, and I have trust because we're using a professional company.