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British stage star joins The Florida Orchestra for ‘Broadway Pops’

Bill DeYoung



Scarlett Strallen is one of three vocalists joining The Florida Orchestra for 'Broadway Pops' this weekend. Photo provided.

The most appreciable difference between Broadway and London’s West End theatre district, according to the very British performer Scarlett Strallen, is the audience reaction.

“The Americans are not afraid to show their feelings, their heart on sleeve,” observes the singer and actress, who’s performed, frequently, in both locales. “They’re on their feet.”

On the other hand, “we Brits sit on our hands. We really have to be impressed to stand up. Standing ovations are very rare.”

Scarlett Strallen as Mary Poppins.

Strallen, who’ll sing with The Florida Orchestra at this weekend’s “Broadway Pops” concerts, got 16 months’ worth of American enthusiasm, night after night, in the stage musical of Disney’s Mary Poppins. She portrayed P.T. Travers’ practically perfect nanny in 2008 and 2009 on Broadway, after playing the role on the West End. She also starred as Mary in the Sydney production.

“Honestly, the whole time that I did it in New York was a complete dream,” Strallen explains. “Working for Disney is sort of max level as well – you get so looked after. I was treated like a queen. And Mary Poppins onstage was so magical.”

Her sister Zisi is starring in the current West End production. “When I was last there I went to see her in it – and it’s just as magical as it always was,” says Strallen. “And I just have such a sense of pride watching it, that I was a part of it. Certainly, to get to do it on Broadway – to fly over the audience in New York, in that beautiful theater, the New Amsterdam – was just dreamy.”

That’s right, just as in the beloved 1964 film version, the stage story ends with our Ms. Poppins flying off into the London sky, clutching her carpet bag, her umbrella held open over her head.

On the West End, they oohed and ahhed.

But Broadway crowds, by this point, were primed and ready for an emotional finale. “By the time I got to fly over the audience at the end of the show, it was almost hysteria in the audience. I truly couldn’t believe the audience’s reactions to everything. Sometimes almost too vocal! Like so loud, so participatory.”

She also played Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in which she was buckled into the titular flying car.

“I was much younger,” Strallen laughs. “As a mother of two, I don’t know how I’d feel now about being strapped into a harness and flying over the audience. I was fearless.”

She had the Debbie Reynolds role in a revival of Singin’ in the Rain, which she reports did not require flight of any sort. “I didn’t fly, but I did get very wet,” she laughs. “And we did get the audience very, very wet.”

That show began with a test run at the Chichester Festival Theatre, a well-known stage in southwest England that provides out-of-town tryouts for West End shows.

“Again, there’s something magical about that particular audience down there,” Strallen believes. “They feel very appreciative. They’re very invested in all the productions that happen, knowing that a lot of them do go on to have these amazing futures.

“With Singin’ in the Rain we were truly just having a glorious, fun summer, not realizing what it would go on to become. So we were all surprised by the West End transfer.

“And it’s now gone on to travel England, to travel the world, many international tours of that very production. It’s never come to Broadway, sadly. I really think that a Singin’ in the Rain revival is long overdue in New York.”

Strallen’s dance card includes two Olivier Award nominations (for Singin’ in the Rain and HMS Pinafore), the role of Cassie in the West End revival of A Chorus Line, and numerous other West End musicals including Candide, The Witches of Eastwick and Mamma Mia!

Hugh Panaro (“Phantom of the Opera,” “Lestat”) and Anne Runolfsson will also sing at this weekend’s TFO concerts.

She lives with her husband and their kids, ages 3 and 1, in New Jersey. Family has taken up a lot of her time, which is why orchestra concerts like these with TFO – performing what she calls “Broadway’s greatest hits” – have become her bread, her butter and her spoonful of sugar.

“People seem to love a pregnant lady to come out and sing,” Strallen explains. “So with both pregnancies, I’ve been doing a lot of these concerts. Which has worked out perfectly. The dream is to be back on Broadway or the West End doing something, because I’m also an actress.

“But with them being 1 and 3, it works out. I get to go and have a lovely weekend in Florida, in the sunshine. Singing some beautiful songs. And frankly, it’s a nice little rest for Mommy.”

The Florida Orchestra’s “Broadway Pops” concert is presented tonight at the Straz Center Morsini Hall, Saturday at the Mahaffey Theater, and Sunday at Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tickets for all performances are available here.













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