From Brisbane to Broadway: Sarah Bakker debuts as Mary Poppins in NYC

Sarah Bakker
Sarah Bakker

Tonight, at just twenty three years of age, Australian performer Sarah Bakker will be realising her dreams as she debuts on Broadway as the world’s most famous nanny – Mary Poppins. 

Raised in Brisbane, Bakker has understudied some of the biggest roles in Australian musical theatre of late including Roxy in Chicago, Christine Daaé in Phantom at the Opera, and of course Mary in the Australian production of Mary Poppins.

Having performed the role more than 100 times during the Australian season, tonight Bakker becomes the first Australian to perform the role of Mary on Broadway.

As her family won’t be able to make it to New York to see her very first performance as Mary at the New Amsterdam Theatre, we wanted to make sure her ‘Aussie Theatre’ family had every opportunity to wish her all the best for her debut!

We had a quick chat with Sarah to ask her about her amazing journey from Brissy girl to Broadway star

You have achieved so much for someone so young! Have you been focused on your performing career from childhood?

Yes, since I was three years old. My parents were professional dancers so I’m pretty sure it was in my blood; I grew up dancing all styles at ‘The Dance Works’ in Brisbane. When I was eight and had broken my arm -preventing me from doing all the dance numbers in an upcoming concert – I was given this singing solo. This prompted my parents to get me into singing lessons as they could hear a voice in little me.

Sarah Bakker as Mary Poppins
Sarah Bakker as Mary Poppins

When did you move to America? How did that all come about?

I won the Green Card Lottery in June 2011, a year before finishing the tour of Mary Poppins in Oz on June 4th 2012. That month, (whilst on holiday overseas) I received an email asking if I could audition for the role of Mary for the US tour. Unfortunately I didn’t get the part but all the creatives and casting directors on Broadway were at that audition and liked me. So I got home and decide to hang out in Sydney to do some further acting training before making the big international move to NYC in January 2013, to pursue my dream of playing Broadway. To my surprise I got the most amazing Facebook message August 25th from the UK choreographer telling me about an opening for Ensemble/ Mary Cover on the US tour…  a week later that offer turned into BROADWAY!!!! Official contracts were finalised and next thing I know I’m on a plane to NY 23rd September. Crazy! I debuted on Broadway 9th October, and two days later I started rehearsing the Mary role.

You’re an Aussie girl in a big city – how are you settling into life in New York? 

I’ve always been someone who loves a challenge so I love it! It takes a while to get your bearings and find out where supermarkets are and little things but generally it’s ok and I’m having lots of fun exploring this HUGE city!! There are so many hidden treasures here, but I have to say I’m really missing a four n twenty me

at pie lately!

What does playing Mary on Broadway mean to you? Is it a dream come true?

Absolutely!!! This role is my DREAM ROLE! I loved the movie growing up and Julie Andrews is my idol. To be playing this iconic role on Broadway this week is still unfathomable to me. I will be living my dreams in every way.

[pull_right]This role is my DREAM ROLE! I loved the movie growing up and Julie Andrews is my idol[/pull_right]

How are you finding working with another company of performers in a show you know so well?

Weird but enjoyable, as they have a completely different take on the show here. I love seeing different character portrayals; it reminds me that a character could be played in so many ways and that the possibilities are endless.

Tell us a little about the similarities and differences between the Aussie production and NYC.

It’s all very ‘same, same, but different’. The set – mind you – is so very grand here; you are actually in a real life doll’s house. It’s amazing! The ensemble tracks are all a bit different as well; my track is a mix of three tracks back home. I think some of the biggest differences lie backstage, such as: there is only ever a half hour call, you do all your make up and wig changes standing up, there is no physical or vocal warm up and at the end of each week you tip your dressers and wiggies. This is all stuff I just had no idea about until I got here.

Are you finding the American audiences different to the Australian audiences?

The audience and their reactions are pretty similar to home, although the Friday and Saturday night audiences are even more excited and go crazy in the bows, like absolutely nuts.

Is there a strong Australian presence on broadway? Do you have support from other expats over there?

Yes, there are so many talented Aussies here at the moment. The amazing Caroline O’Connor and Anthony Warlow are literally in theatres around the corner from each other doing the Aussies so proud. I just did a photoshoot on Monday with Tony Sheldon, Mig Ayesa, Hayden Tee, Alexis Fishman and Rachel Bickerton (my roommate) who is also on Broadway in Chicago the musical. With the help of Rachel and people in Poppins I’m settling in very nicely, it’s great.

Are you looking forward to rugging up for a winter Christmas in NYC? Are you new cast mates looking after you?

Really not looking forward to winter – I’m from Brisbane. We still sweat in winter there! No, it will be beautiful; I just may be spending most of it indoors with hot chocolate and movies.  And yes, the cast and crew are so lovely and really look after me. I’ve already made some beautiful friends.

How long are you planning on being in the states? Will this be the start of a long term relationship with NYC?

Not sure yet, definitely a year. I’d also love to work on the West End. My dream is to become a leading lady on Broadway and/ or West End, so we shall see.

“Anything can happen if you let it” as we say in Mary Poppins.


Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

2 thoughts on “From Brisbane to Broadway: Sarah Bakker debuts as Mary Poppins in NYC

  • Wishing Sarah every success. Great news.

  • Congratulations Sarah, everyone at The Dance Works are so proud of you!

Comments are closed.