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BWW Blog: Jesse Swimm of Tuacahn's MARY POPPINS - Preshow Rituals and Backstage Shenanigans

October 21
10:04 AM 2013

For today's blog I thought it would be fun if I talked about the art of getting ready for a show, but with a slight twist. Now that we are towards the end of our run here at Tuacahn our show time is at 7:30 with a half hour call time of 7pm. So without further ado I give you the Mary Poppins vs. Bert pre-show preparation.

5:30 pm:

Gail Bennett, my lovely co-star, arrives at the theatre. Yes kids you read that right, a whole two hours before show time. It takes time and precision to become Mary Poppins.

I am most likely, still at home, sleeping.

5:45 pm:

Around this time Gail has finished her eye make-up, lashes and all. Don't forget the bug repellant, yes bug repellant. Oh the joys of working outside. It is not uncommon for us to see giant grasshoppers, moths, tarantulas, scorpions, and the ever so popular mosquito. So far I have been lucky enough to not endure their wrath. Gail on the other hand was not so lucky, about a month ago our friend the mosquito thought it would be awesome to take a bite out of her forehead towards the end of Act 1. Mary got quite the lump for Act was glorious and comical all at the same time.

I, am still asleep


At this time in the process one of our lovely and talented Banks children, Lauren Allen, shows up to get ready. Today is particularly exhilarating as she is prepping for her upcoming audition for the Utah Shakespeare Festival just an hour up the road in Cedar City, Utah. Being that her audition is the next day Gail offers to coach her on the piece by having her recite her monologue, the opening fairies speech from "A Midsummer Night's Dream". For someone who is only 14 years old Lauren is quite adept to Shakespeare and verse. As she continues her piece, the head of our Make-up and Wig department, Matthew Oliver, comes in to pin curl Gail's hair and place the iconic Mary Poppins do upon her head.

I finally wake up start to get ready to leave my apartment.


At this point Gail's transformation is almost complete. She adds a few touches of the signature red lipstick, her boots and every woman's favorite piece of clothing, the corset. There is talk of boys, school, and homework between Gail and Lauren. On a side note, I am always impressed with the children of Mary Poppins. Not only are they starring in a huge show but they are also going to school fulltime and keeping up with their studies. It is all very impressive.

I take my dog out one last time and get her "kong" ready full of salmon flavored Zukes and peanut butter, mmmmm tasty. Then it's time to hop on my moped and take the daily trip to Tuacahn.


Gail's dresser Brittney shows up next to help her into costume and address any issues with her wardrobe that may need attending to.


I arrive a couple minutes before half hour to sign in and say hello to my lovely co-star while she is doing some vocal exercises to get herself prepared for tonight's show. I grab my mic head to the dressing room and start by applying my make-up. Mine is a little less complex and usually takes me about 5 minutes to apply.


I start get into costume. This is the only difficult part of my preparation, as I have to underdress my Jolly Holiday outfit under my opening outfit for a quick-change that takes place during the number. It's not terribly difficult more just uncomfortable. All in all my prep time take about 20 minutes, Gail's 2 hours, just a slight difference, lol. But hey, when you are playing Mary Poppins you want to be as prepared and look amazing as she does nightly.


It's places, time for a quick sip of water, a final check in with my dresser, Madison (whom I would be lost without, I swear she keeps me sane sometimes) and then it's off to mic check. It's show time folks.

Now I did mention backstage shenanigans. As with any show the temptation to goof around is always prevalent. Not that I condone it onstage but backstage that is a whole different ball game, especially when one is pit singing in "Starlight Express". As I had mentioned in previous blogs we are doing three shows in rep. While most of the cast is on stage skating their faces off there is a small group of us offstage backing them up during the more active numbers. Now since we aren't skating and we aren't singing every number in the show we tend to have a little bit of downtime between numbers. I, being a kid at heart, like to bring toys and treats for us to entertain ourselves with during the show. Now that it is the Halloween season I thought it would be fun to bring glow sticks, glow in the dark vampire fangs, and glow in the dark mustaches for my compatriots to wear, you know the basics. I mean hey the cast on stage shouldn't get to have all the fun, right? It was quite the sight seeing all of us singing adorned with all the lovely trinkets the Target dollar section had to offer. As for the rest of the show I might offer up a little dance to ladies while they sing, you know to keep up morale. Plus it gives them a good laugh. All in all it is in good fun and never truly detracts from what we are doing backstage. It's the little things like these that make the job we do so much fun and what makes working at Tuacahn such a unique and fun experience.

Gotta have the lashes just right

Time to pin curl that hair (Matt Oliver head of Hair and Make-up)

Ever wonder how she holds her mic? In her wig cap, both of them!!!

A quick hello to baby Lydia, Gail's daughter

Ah bug repellant, never go on stage without it

Some tips from one professional to another

Jane Banks (Lauren Allen) arrives for the show

What a lovely shade Mary

Last minute wig touch-ups

Mary is very sassy at times

Looking good Gail

It takes all of this to become Mary Poppins

It takes this little to become Bert, lol

A quick bit of make-up then...

Into my second costume of the show that goes under my top of show costume.

Mary and Bert ready for showtime

Special lenses to help see their scores at night (Heidi Anderson and Jennifer Evans)

Janna is so demure

He vants to suck your blood (David Engel)

I can't tell if they are scared or just trying to stay warm

Everything's better with glow in the darks treats (Heidi Anderson, Jennifer Evans, Janna Lyn Cardia, Nicole Powell, David Engel)

A quick warm-up before Starlight with Peter Saide)

The ladies of "The Pit" (Heidi Anderson, Jennifer Evans, Janna Lyn Cardia, Nicole Powell)

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About the Author

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Guest Blogger: Jesse Swimm Jesse, has spent the last 20 years working extensively throughout New York, Nationally, and Internationally. He was Action in Broadway choreographer Joey McKneely's hit international production of "West Side Story". Jesse was also a member of the European tours of "A Chorus Line" and "Grease" for which he was the dance captain and set over 5 companies throughout Europe. Other productions include “High Button Shoes” at the Tony Award winning theatre The Goodspeed Opera House, “Swing”, “Beauty and the Beast”, "Footloose", "Singin' in the Rain", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "Anything Goes", "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown", multiple productions of "A Chorus Line", numerous industrials and a few years at the happiest place on earth, Disneyland. Jesse also completed the role of Bobby in a newly revised version of Kander and Ebb’s “The Rink” at The Cape Playhouse starring Leslie Uggams and was in China for the Macau International Music Festival in “Guys and Dolls”. Jesse was the Dance Captain/Swing on the Cameron Mackintosh/Trevor Nunn/Matthew Bourne National Tour of “My Fair Lady” direct from London’s National Theatre in the West End. Most recently Jesse was a part of the 1st National Tour (original cast) and closing Broadway company of Mary Poppins where he understudied and performed the role Bert as well as the US regional premiere of Mary Poppins at the Tuacahn Amphitheater in the role of Bert. Currently Jesse is playing the role of Nachum the Beggar at the Tony Award winning Goodspeed Opera House.

Jesse has also worked with such legendary Broadway director/choreographer/producers as Cameron Mackintosh, Trevor Nunn, Matthew Bourne, David Marquez, Tony Award Winner Andy Blankenbeuhler, Tony Award nominee Lara Teeter, Michael Butler, and Nightmare Creations duo Melissa Williams and Carla Kama who are choreographers for international music sensation Prince. Jesse, a California State University of Fullerton alumnus, is a proud member of Actor's Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers. He is also the proud dad of a rescue dog, and encourages everyone to open their homes to a four-legged friend.