Poppin' Up

Mary Poppins’ next alter ego has prior rooftop experience.

Laura Michelle Kelly

Laura Michelle Kelly

Photo By David Turner

NEW YORK — Just a few short years ago, Laura Michelle Kelly went to an open call in London’s West End to be an understudy in “Beauty and the Beast.” Now she’s making her Broadway debut in “Fiddler on the Roof,” and preparing herself for her biggest career move yet: chim-chim-cherooing up the Prince Edward Theatre as everyone’s favorite nanny in the world premiere of “Mary Poppins” in London this December.

Kelly has already played most of the contemporary musical theater canon, though she only just turned 24 years old. She’s starred as Sophie, the daughter in “Mamma Mia;” Eponine in “Les Miserables” (“she has the big-belter numbers,” says Kelly); Wendy in “Peter Pan” at the Royal Festival Hall (with her two younger brothers, also actors), and Eliza Doolittle in Cameron Mackintosh’s recent production of “My Fair Lady.” And that’s not even including the various musicals, like “South Pacific” and “The King and I” that she starred in growing up on the Isle of Wight on the South Coast of England.

“I did every show possible there except the ones I’ve been in since,” she explains, over tea and biscuits a few days before the opening of “Fiddler,” in which she stars as Hodel, the middle daughter who moves away from Anatevka to be with her imprisoned husband.

The actress insists she never expected her career to turn out anything like this. “I was a girl who’d never even seen a West End production. I didn’t think I had a chance in hell,” she says of that first audition in London. “You’ve got a chance in a million — thousands and thousands get turned down every year.” But the producers saw something in Kelly and cast her as Belle’s understudy, and as a member of the chorus. “I played a dustpan and a broom,” she adds, with a laugh. “I was an enchanted object! I love saying that.”

Perhaps even more astounding is that Kelly has worked so steadily since. “Whenever I wondered what I was going to do next, something would come up,” she says. “I feel really blessed that I’ve been able to go from one job to another.”
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