AUSSIE MARY POPPINS ANNOUNCEDVERITY Hunt-Ballard is literally a woman in a thousand. She was among more than 1000 performers who auditioned for the leading role in the $16 million production of Mary Poppins, which opens in Melbourne in July.
She has just been offered the career-defining role by legendary producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh and director Richard Eyre in Amsterdam, where she had gone with a handful of other candidates for a final audition last week, ahead of the opening of the show’s Dutch production.
”They asked if I would like to play her and I couldn’t help myself stopping the tears from welling up,” she said yesterday after arriving back in Australia on Monday.
One of the reasons the Australian hunt took nearly six months is that Hunt-Ballard did not apply in the first round of auditions last October, in which more than 650 performers took part. She was playing Frankie Valli’s lover in the hit musical Jersey Boys at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre.
”I wanted to audition but I felt I couldn’t because the show had just opened,” she said.
So the search continued in Australia, New Zealand and London for Australians working in the West End. This time Hunt-Ballard was among the 400 candidates.
”I knew when they didn’t find anyone the first time that the criteria might fit me.”
She described the character as ”a triple threat”, demanding a huge vocal range as well as dancing and acting abilities.
”It’s very challenging vocally – you have to hit high C and at other times you are quite low,” she said. ”All the time you are dancing, flying and jumping out of chimneys. You need a good level of fitness.”
She will join the rest of the cast, including Philip Quast, Marina Prior, Judi Connelli and Debra Byrne when rehearsals begin at Her Majesty’s Theatre in May.
Hunt-Ballard graduated from the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts in 2003 and has performed in The Rocky Horror Show and smaller productions of South Pacific and Oklahoma!, but this will be her biggest role by far.
”I was a big fan of Julie Andrews as a child and wanted her to visit my house, although we were a very happy family.”
Hunt-Ballard is 28, the same age that Andrews was when she made the film.
”I think that is really auspicious,” she said.
Source: The Age