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Mary Poppins - Broadway

Mary Poppins' Megan Osterhaus on Being Mrs. Banks in Her First Broadway Leading Role

Mary Poppins' Megan Osterhaus on Being Mrs. Banks in Her First Broadway Leading Role
Megan Osterhaus in 'Mary Poppins'
I’ve gone from covering a 20-year-old to playing a mother.

Age: 34

Hometown: Oklahoma City, OK

Currently: Trying to keep up appearances while managing two out-of-control children and a distracted husband as Winifred Banks in the hit Broadway musical Mary Poppins.

The Family Business: Osterhaus is the daughter of adoptive parents who spent a decade in New York working in the theater before returning to their home state to start a family. (Her mother was a singer at New York City Opera; her father produced, directed and choreographed for the company.) After becoming a theater professor at Oklahoma City University, Megan’s dad plugged her into his productions to keep her busy after school. “I would stand in the aisles and memorize everything, sing all the songs, learn all the choreography and play with the props,” she recalls. “For a kid, it was amazing.” (Fun fact: young Megan appeared in Annie Get Your Gun alongside OCU student Kristin Chenoweth.) Along the way, she developed a less-than-perfect reputation on campus. “I was a bit of a terror,” she says with a laugh. “[Mary Poppins hair supervisor] Tod L. McKim went to school there and told me they used to call me ‘Megan Monsterhaus.’”

Any Dream Will Do: While attending the University of Central Oklahoma, Osterhaus worked with yet another talented family member who left New York to become a professor: her aunt, Tamara Long, who’d starred as Mona Kent in the original off-Broadway production of Dames at Sea. When Long cast her niece in the same role, Osterhaus recalls, “I went into her office crying and worrying about if everybody thought there was favoritism. So I busted my butt.” Before her final semester, the young actress visited New York and auditioned on a whim for a tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She landed the job, graduated early and began understudying Jodi Benson and pop star Deborah Gibson as the Narrator. When Gibson fell ill early on, “I was petrified,” Osterhaus says, “but you have to be prepared that things are going to go wrong and learn to laugh it off.” Case in point: the night she ran offstage prematurely, leaving Joseph alone during a duet.

Lay All Your Love on Me: With money saved up from the Joseph tour, Osterhaus moved to New York with three friends, including Oklahoma native Kelli O’Hara. “It was great—we were all running around to auditions, although Kelli wasn’t unemployed for long,” she fondly recalls of the three-time Tony nominee. Osterhaus didn’t stay put for long, either, landing an understudy job on the national tour of Martin Guerre and then covering Sophie on tour in Mamma Mia! for two years before joining the ensemble of the Broadway company. While on the road, she met her future husband, actor Chris Bolan, who was playing Sky. “He’s very Irish and fair-skinned, and they made him self-tan because we’re supposed to be in Greece,” she recalls with amusement. “He got slathered every single day. Everyone called him my ‘orange husband who looks like a carrot.’”

From Mamma Mia! to Stage Motherhood: When Osterhaus departed Mamma Mia! for Broadway's Mary Poppins, she again found herself as an understudy, this time to the title character and mother Winifred Banks. “You just have to be respectful and find the peace that comes with being happy for having the work—but also [maintaining] the ambition to do more,” she says of standing by so frequently. Her ambition paid off when the show launched its national tour and Osterhaus was offered the role of Mrs. Banks, which led to a full-time gig in the Broadway company since March. “I’ve gone from covering a 20-year-old [as Sophie] to playing a mother,” the actress marvels. “I’ve adjusted to it now, but there’ve been moments when I have my arms around the two Banks children and I’m thinking, 'Am I old enough for this?'”

Being Mrs. Banks: Wigs and corset-heavy costumes help the youthful Osterhaus age up in Mary Poppins. “I don’t know how women wore those things,” she says of circa-1910 undergarments. “Whoever invented them should be burned.” Over time, she’s perfected her character’s serene, unflappable personality. “I’m goofy and a bit of tomboy, so it’s difficult stepping into roles in that time period, with a woman’s body language. You have to make sure it doesn’t become a caricature.” Though she’s not a mother herself just yet, Osterhaus remains close to her own parents, who set her on the road to Broadway back in Oklahoma City. “There are moments when I want to ask them if they think something works,” she says of her performance, “but they’re at a point where they’re so proud, they don’t even answer my questions. I can't imagine what it's like from their perspective that they adopted this child who wanted to have the life and career they had and is making a living at it. I'm proud to be able to carry that tradition on."  

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