It's My Life PBS Kids Go!
A Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Experience

By It's My Life on December 14, 2009 9:08 PM | No TrackBacks

Meet Bryce Baldwin, Carter Thomas, Katie Balen, and Bailey Grey...Four tweens who've left their normal lives behind for a little while in order to perform in the stage musical adaptation of "Mary Poppins" now touring the U.S.

Thumbnail image for marypoppins1.JPGBryce and Carter share the role of Michael Banks while Katie and Bailey split the role of his sister, Jane. That means when Bryce and Katie are performing, Carter and Bailey are backstage, standing by in case of emergencies...and vice versa. With all the time they spend together onstage, offstage, in "tour school," and catching some downtime, it's no wonder that this quartet has become a tight knit group of friends!

When "Mary Poppins" came to Los Angeles, IML got the chance to check out this fantastic show -- which has something for everyone -- and talk to Bryce, Katie, Carter, and Bailey about life on the road as professional stage actors. It was very cool to meet young performers who are getting the chance to do something they love...and audiences across the United States are getting to watch them do it!

IML: Can you tell us how long you've been part of the "Mary Poppins" tour?

Bryce: I joined the tour in March of this year.

Carter: I started the tour just about 3 months ago.

Katie: Bailey and I have been on tour since September in Minneapolis. We're the new kids!

Bailey: It was cool to come in because the other kids could show us what to do. We didn't rehearse with the whole cast, just with the director and the dance captain.

Katie: But we got to hang out with all the kids, who were so nice. We got to see the show a few times and that really helped. We rehearsed for 5 weeks and then started performing.

IML: When you go to the different tour locations, do you get to spend time in the actual cities?

Carter: Every single Monday we have the day off, so that's our tourist day.

Bryce: A lot of times we'll do things together and go out with our families. We like to have game nights on Sundays because we don't have to get up early the next morning.

IML: What's the coolest thing you've seen so far?

Carter: I liked the Mall of America in Minneapolis. It was huge! And then I liked the state fair in Dallas. We went to the state fair a lot because the theatre was right next to it.

Bailey: It's a huge treat to be in every city, but I have to say the state fair in Dallas was my favorite too. Especially all the fried Fried Coca Cola. That was so weird! And Fried Oreos.

Katie: And Fried Butter!

IML: Talk about local flavor! Do you feel the audiences are different from city to city?

Carter: Definitely. For instance, here in L.A., there are certain lines they laugh at more. One of them is, "The best possible nanny at the best possible wage"...normally people don't laugh at that but in L.A. they do, I guess because a lot of people have nannies.

Bailey: And in L.A., during "Step In Time," they were clapping for five minutes. They clapped when Burt first comes out of the chimney. I felt so good when they clapped when the curtain first went up.

IML: So you spend all this time together and you also share a role. Boys, do you feel like you each play Michael differently?

Bryce: I think we really do. We've never actually seen ourselves play the role. It's hard to see the show live because if we're not performing, we're on standby and we have to watch the monitors backstage. The way I do my show would be partially based around how Katie does her show, and Carter's would be partially based on how Bailey does it.

IML: How would you describe Michael?

Bryce: I know that Michael has quite a few funny lines in the show so I'd say he's very witty and sometimes he says things just to put them out there. I think he's also very happy under all his anger.

Carter: He just catches onto Jane a lot. Whenever Jane gets angry he wants to get angry too, he wants that competition. He always wants to be in the loop and know what's going on, and asks so many questions that pop into his mind.

IML: Girls, what about you? Do you each play Jane differently?

Katie: Everyone has their own take on their part. We definitely say the lines differently.

Bailey: We each have our own feel for the role. It's the same with the other characters who are double cast or are understudies. They have different things to do.

IML: Do you talk to each other about the part?

Bailey: If it comes up in conversation, we do. But we have different things to talk about!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Mary Poppins Photo 1(1).jpgIML: What kind of prep did you do before coming to your roles? Did you see the movie or read the books?

Bryce: I went to an audition that was for being in Broadway shows in general. So it wasn't just for "Mary Poppins." When I got a callback for "Mary Poppins," then I ended up watching the movie. I actually think the show's a lot better than the movie for certain reasons. There's more explanation.

Carter: It shows more of the family.

Bryce: In the movie you can't really understand why George [Mr. Banks] is as tight and strict as he is.

Katie: I grew up on the movie. It was my favorite movie when I was little, and I used to sing all the songs.

Bailey: I used to do the Penguin dance!

Katie: When we auditioned, we got music from the show and my voice teacher helped me with that.

Bailey: Katie and I auditioned together and it was really fun. We did all these improv games. We sang songs and did dances. To me it was the funnest audition on the face of the earth!

IML: When we came in, we met one of your teachers. Tell us a bit about how you're managing school while on tour.

Bryce: We can only have 9 hours a day of work including school and rest. In other cities we had school during the show but here in California, it's different because we have to be done with school by 4pm. We have to have 12 hours between finishing the show and starting school the next day. We do have reading homework that we're supposed to do on nights we're not performing, and we can do that backstage.

Carter: At first it was quite an adjustment, because at regular school we have to move at a slower pace because the teacher has to help everyone. But here our teachers can really get into things because it's only the four of us. We have a language teacher and a math teacher, so each teacher only has two students at a time!

Katie: I definitely like tour school better. In my regular school, it's a class of 26 kids. So here we get much, much more attention.

IML: Do you miss hanging out with your friends? Is it weird to be somewhere where there aren't many kids around?

Bryce: It's nice right now because Carter lives here in L.A. so he has all his friends. It's different to be away from all the things I know. But it's worth it! And the theater's being very nice. My sister sang at Carnegie Hall a little while ago and they let me go to that. They're supportive and they know how hard it is to be away from home.

Carter: The four of us have gotten to be good friends. We get to hang out so much because we have lots of down time and we're always together at the theater and school.

Katie: We keep in touch with everyone back home, too. There's a lot of texting and calling!

Bryce: And the cast is amazing. They're like an extra family. I know it would seem that because they're so much older than us that they'd keep to themselves, but they're always really good at including us and a lot of times they'll just start talking to us.

Carter: I've actually had three of the guys from the show come over to my house to play a game on my X Box. And they've still been asking, "Hey, when are we coming over again?"

IML: Do you get nervous before the curtain goes up?

Bailey: Just a little. I get a tingly feeling, like "I'm about to go on stage for 3 hours!"

Katie: When the curtain comes up, you're like, "Okay, this is it, here we go." Once the spotlight comes on you, you're like, "I've got this in the bag." My first show, I was so nervous, but it got easier.

Bailey: You're not thinking about anything else. You're just doing what you love to do.

Katie: I think it's good to be a little nervous because it whips you into shape!

IML: There's so much going on behind the scenes in any show, but it seems like this one in particular has a lot of backstage action.

Bryce: It's neat to see what the crew really does. Most people think that most of the work is done onstage. But the truth is that more is done backstage. There's moving all the sets and they have to make everything perfect.

Carter: We have more choreography offstage than onstage!

IML: Like what, for example?

Carter: Between "Step In Time" and "Gingerbread Stars" we have to do a complete costume change.

Bryce: Yeah, that goes really fast.

Carter: At first that change was really scary but once you get into it, it's really easy. All of our dressers are really nice too.

Katie: That is a quick change so you have to stay on your game. You just get used to it.

Bailey: The hardest change for me is before the kitchen scene we have to get out of our slippers and tie our shoes and it's really quick. Sometimes I can't find my lace because it's stuck in the shoe!

Katie: Bryce and I have a race to see who can get their costume change done first!

IML: How did you each get started performing? What has it added to your life other than having this amazing experience on tour with "Mary Poppins"?

Bryce: I started with my mom doing church plays. But with professional stuff, I have to thank my sister Ashley. She started doing plays with local dinner theatre and ever since then, I've been getting calls to do other shows. I'm very thankful for my family and have their support. I know I'm going to keep continuing.

Carter: I got started because of my sisters too. When they were born they wanted to act so much, once they started acting, I wanted to act too. I was around the age of 3 when I did my first show. I really liked it because once you got done performing you had so many friends backstage, and it was just so much fun backstage.

Katie: My first school play in third grade. I auditioned and just loved it. I followed that and started doing community theatre and eventually did this. I think it's given me more self-confidence, for sure.

Bailey: I started when I was about 4 years old. My dad teaches music at a school and they were doing "The Music Man" and he wanted me to be in it so I was a little town person. I loved it and started going on auditions because I knew that it was something I really wanted to do. And now I feel like it's changed my personality. I've become more responsible with doing these shows.

Katie: It's a lot of work but it's very fun.

Bailey: When you're on stage you get this feeling like, "Wow! I never thought I'd be doing this!"

IML: What's it like to be standing onstage in front of a huge unfamiliar audience like that? It's not like a school play or church play.

Katie: We just warmed up to the cast right away. We have so much fun with them. They're funny and talented and nice. With a school play you're like, "Okay, this is for my class and the parents." But with this you're like, so many people get to see you perform.

Bryce: Surprisingly, it's actually easier to do it in front of people you don't know.

Carter: When you're onstage with people you don't know, it just feels like real life. You forget that you're in a show. You don't get nervous.

Bryce: I just take hold of the rhythm. Even when the audience is clapping, I feel like I am Michael Banks and Mary Poppins is my nanny.

Carter: Yeah. Even when she's flying away, it's really like she's going! And then you're like, Oh wait...she left yesterday too.

IML: Jane and Michael are in pretty much every scene. Doing this several times a week, do you ever get tired?

Carter: You get lost in it. Usually the hardest day is the Sunday night show because it's the end of the week.

Bryce: But Carter never hits a wall, ever. He keeps going!

IML: Yeah, you guys probably all go to bed pretty late.

Bryce: We get home before 12, but you have to wind down. You can't just do this live show and then stop.

IML: Katie and Bailey, what kind of reactions do you get from people who've seen the show?

Katie: It's wonderful. When we go out the stage door there's a crowd asking for our autographs.

IML: We're sure you've inspired a lot of younger kids.

Bailey: I hope so! They should just follow their dreams of what they want to do.

Katie: Chase your dream and tackle it down!

IML: Thanks to the four of you! We wish you all a very bright future doing what you love!

"Mary Poppins" will be playing at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles through February 7, 2010. You can also catch it on Broadway in New York or possibly on tour in your area; check out the "Mary Poppins" Disney on Broadway website for more information!

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