02-19-2017  10:49 am      •     

The Fred Meyer Broadway Over America series presents Mary Poppins – with the musical production's first-ever African American featured actress.

In an interview with The Skanner News this week, actress Q. Smith said she exults in her edgy role as Poppins' viscious nemesis, Miss Andrew (as well as two other parts, Queen Victoria and Miss Smythe). Producers of the rollicking musical describe it as "not just a fluffy copy of the movie."

Smith's past shows, most of which have toured, include "Les Miserables" on Broadway; and "Fame," "Smokey Joe's Cafe" (two productions, one starring Gladys Knight and the other with Rita Coolidge), "Aida," "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat," all off-Broadway; and more.

The Skanner News: Which was your favorite role?

Q. Smith: I love this role. If you're looking for the movie, you'll be able to see most of the movie in the show, but also most of the book is incorporated in our stage production of it. It's a combination of the book and the movie together.

It's very in your face, it'll bring you to a whole new level of appreciation for the movie.

I would say that the role of Miss Andrew is probably by far my favorite role ever. Also my favorite show ever was Les Miserables, I did that on Broadway.

TSN: One thing I'm going to be curious about is how this Portland audience will respond to – what is actually a more accurate portrayal of Victorian England – a lot of people don't think about African descendents there. Can you just talk a little bit about that? Did it throw you for a loop? Or do you really dig into it or what is your feeling about it?

QS: On two levels – I mean historically and artistically speaking, they're kind of two separate things. Because in Victorian England they didn't have slavery per se. Africans and people from different parts of the (Caribbean) Islands, they worked in London, you know what I mean? And they may have ended up as servants, but a lot of them were just free citizens. And a lot of people don't know that — that Europe was in the forefront of freedom for Africans and for Islanders. And so they had regular jobs like we do today. A lot of them did have power, a lot of them were wealthy, a lot of them just had a regular normal life.

But artistically speaking, it's very rare – I am the first African American to play a leading role in this show. If you look in London, or New York, Broadway, there hasn't been a principle character that's been African American. So this is a first for Disney, it's a first for me, and I'm so glad because that's kind if my plight in life – is to open doors to let people know we can do anything. Once the show starts you don't even think about 'what color is she? Where is she from?' People just want to listen to the story. So if we trust our audiences enough to understand the kind of story we're telling, they'll get over the color barrier quickly. Especially if you're doing a good job. And that's why I really want to encourage theaters and anyone in the arts – television, film, theater – to go forward and cast people according to their level of ability, not color.

And in "Mary Poppins," it doesn't matter. Our show is very colorful, you'll see people of all ages, all ethnicities, all types of people in our show. And it's so beautiful to bring your shows into this and see all the colors onstage because a lot of times, and particularly shows like the "Lion King" – no offense or anything like that — that are majority Black, it takes place in Africa. It's awesome for people to come and see our show with a wide variety of ethnicities, and I applaud Disney for that, because they do that often. It's wonderful for me and wonderful for the person who plays this part after me.

TSN: Who are your role models?

QS: Audra McDonald, she's won three or four Tonys now ( see Reader Comments below), she's an African American female who has done a variety of roles and who has crossed all kinds of barriers. An amazing, amazing woman and I will really need her in my book. I'm writing book about what we're speaking about, actually. She's inspired me. A woman named Viola Davis, has inspired me, she comes from the theater but now she has gone on to a life in film, she was nominated for an Oscar for "Doubt" (in 2008). She is a strong, amazing African American woman who is so wise, and so how she has conducted her career and conducted herself as an artist – you know we are artists, we are not just Black, we are not just one thing. We are many things. We don't just sing gospel music, we don't just rap – I don't even know how to rap. It's so amazing you just walk into a room to audition and before I started making my career people just assumed I was one thing. And so this opportunity to appear in "Mary Poppins" has given way for me to really show what I can do. Hopefully it will help others to understand that people can do anything if — you give them a chance to do it.

TSN: I was excited that Nikki James won a Tony on Sunday night (for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, in "The Book of Mormon").

QS: Yes, she's a friend of mine, I'm very excited for her and her career. I am so proud of her.

"Mary Poppins" runs at the Keller Auditorium from June 22 to July 10. For ticket information go to www.broadwayacrossamerica.com/portland/ , or call 503-241-1802.

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all