Broadway Comes to Bradley

Danielle Benton, front left, teaches students the dance moves to a song from the Broadway musical "Mary Poppins."

By Frank Radosevich II
November 2, 2012

If you thought writing the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” by hand was hard, try spelling it out with your entire body.

A group of Bradley students recently had the opportunity to work with cast members from the Broadway musical “Mary Poppins” in a master class sponsored by the Department of Theatre Arts. Two actors from the touring production taught students a brief dance routine during the hourlong class and answered questions about launching a career in theater.

The dance, where the actors spell out “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with jaunty steps and rigid arm movements at increasingly faster paces, proved to be an excellent challenge for the students.

“It’s rough but you have to overcome it, and then it’s really fun,” said Crystal Pulkowski, a junior from Lake in the Hills, Ill., studying theatre performance. “It was a wonderful opportunity, and I’m grateful to have it.”

Pulkowski said the class was “very exciting” and resonated perfectly with her professional ambitions. Performing in musical theater since the age of 7, Pulkowski said she chose Bradley for its acting classes but appreciated the chance to carry out a song and dance routine. Her junior seminar class recently visited three theaters in Chicago and took in a show at each one.

Pulkowski said she also enjoyed hearing the stories of how the actors ended up working on a national tour.

“To have two people who were in my shoes and have them teach me what I want to do is great,” she said. “Just knowing where they went after college was really important.”

Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film, the musical “Mary Poppins” is playing at the Peoria Civic Center from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4.

The visiting cast members walked students through the dance steps letter by letter before cueing the music and performing the entire word. The steps included jumps, kicks, arm swinging and pecking fingers in the palm of the hand like a typewriting banging out letters.

“Keep it really sharp and picture-frame every one of those letters,” Danielle Benton, who performs in the musical’s ensemble, told the students. “The hardest part is keeping it clean. It’s showing each letter as a picture.”

Benton said visiting Bradley was a refreshing change of pace from rehearsals and performances. Before heading back to the set, Benton commended the students on their skill and enthusiasm during the tutorial.

“It’s nice to see young, eager people because we were once just like them,” she said. “They did really well.”