Not many actors can say they have followed up playing a murderer with a stint as one of the most-loved children’s characters of all time. Well, unless you’re Zizi Strallen that is.
The 26-year-old is in the final throes of rehearsals ahead of Mary Poppins’ arrival on the Dubai Opera stage on Monday, May 1. But even after taking the show on a successful UK tour, Strallen remains a little in shock at getting the call from legendary director Cameron Mackintosh.
“At the time I was doing The Car Man for Matthew Bourne where I was playing a sort of murderess, which is very different to Mary Poppins!” she tells Time Out. “Cameron Mackintosh saw me in that and for some reason thought, ‘Yes! She’ll be great for Mary!’
“I don’t know how that mind worked but it’s brilliant and I’m so thankful [for the chance].”
Strallen has flourished in the role, revelling in belting out the catchy sing-a-long numbers as well tapping into her “adrenaline junkie” side with the aerial elements demanded of her. However, it is discovering the sheer impishness of Mary that has delighted her the most.
“When you’re young watching Mary Poppins, you kind of don’t realise that she’s actually quite cheeky and she can be a little bit sarcastic, which I absolutely love,” she says. “Especially in Julian Fellowes’ script, there’s a lot of witty humour. I’ve revelled in that and [the cheekiness] is something Cameron has said he really likes in my performance.”
And as she prepares to bring Mary to Dubai, Strallen, the niece of stage legend Bonnie Langford, is hoping fans here will have a similar affection for her portrayal.
“There is this pressure you put on yourself but I just think, ‘I’m going to be the Mary that I think I should be’ and hope that everyone will love me as well!”
From Dhs250. May 1 to 25. Dubai Opera, www.dubaiopera.com (04 440 8888).