Only indigenous actor in Mary Poppins proud to represent people of colour

By Jessica Tyson

Samoan performer Maria Angela Va'a plays the only character of colour in the musical Mary Poppins, which opens tonight at The Civic in Auckland.

“I play Mrs Corry, who is a very extraordinary character in the show, and she starts off the song Supercalifragilistic with Mary. So she’s Jamaican,” Va'a said.

Va'aturned to Jamaican-inspired films like Cool Runnings and artists such as Shaggy to familiarise herself with the accent. As the only indigenous actor in the musical, she hopes to make her mark.

“I’m here to represent people of colour and I'm really excited to bring this Jamaican character to life, try to make her memorable.”

Promoters claim it will be the biggest theatre performance "in the world" to re-open since Covid-19 hit.

“It got set back twice," Va'a said.

Musical back on

“We were all waiting for that Alert Level  One and then it happened and we were like ‘Yesss’.  So it’s been a journey but I’m so excited to be able to bring it to life now and share it with everyone.”

Maria said singing and acting had always been a big part of her life and upbringing but she was first inspired to perform after watching her older brother in the Hairspray musical.

After six years in the industry, performing in Mary Poppins is extra special for her.

“It's always been a dream to be able to perform at the Civic, so it’s a big tick off my bucket list.”

Nothing excites Maria more than having her whānau support her and she has members of her family coming to watch every night.

“I think they’ll definitely love it. It’s such a technical show. It’s very magical and vibrant and so full of life.”

Happy prime minister

The season will include 17 performances from today until November 1.

The cast and crew were visited this week by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during her election campaigning.

She said she was proud of her decisions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This show and the fact that it will be happening over the next few nights is indicative of the plan that I've had and fact that it has delivered the ability for a performance here when many other countries are just not even close to that,” Ardern said.