Verity Hunt-Ballard wins biggest role

Verity Hunt-Ballard has won the most prized role in musical theatre.

It has been confirmed that the Jersey Boys star will play Mary in the forthcoming Australian production of the blockbuster musical Mary Poppins.Her casting has been one of the best kept secrets in musical theatre, with rumours persisting about who had been cast as Mary but very few suggesting Hunt-Ballard was in the running.

Producer, Cameron Mackintosh, said Hunt-Ballard would be superb in the role.

“Verity flew from Melbourne to Amsterdam on the weekend for her final audition for the production team, where we are all preparing the Dutch production which opens in a few weeks,” Mackintosh said.

“Verity gave a tremendous audition – witty, charming, self-assured, with her own impish sense of fun. She is unlike any other of the hundreds of girls we have seen and is indeed Practically Perfect in every way.”

The director of the show Richard Eyre said he couldn’t wait to work with the young star.

“We are thrilled we have found an exciting Australian Mary Poppins, who is so attractive, charming and witty,” he said.

“Verity matches the talents of the rest of our outstanding Australian cast.”

Producer Thomas Schumacher said today from New York: “All the waiting has paid off – we have finally found the Mary that Australia deserves!”

He added: “Even after having cast this role for London, New York and Holland, it still amazes us how truly difficult it is to find that one extraordinary actress who can meet the demands of this singular role and bring Mary to life.”

Schumacher said that Hunt-Ballard, who is coincidentally the same age that Julie Andrews was when she made the film, delivers on every possible level and “simply stole our hearts away”.

“I have no doubt she will do the same for Australian audiences when they finally get to see her,” he said.

Verity arrived back in Melbourne last night overjoyed and is now preparing for the role that will make her a star.

“Like Mary Poppins, my feet haven’t touched ground, since I received the news,” she said.

Verity is currently playing Frankie Valli’s lover, in Jersey Boys. A 2003 WAAPA graduate, Verity has performed in The Rocky Horror Show, South Pacific, Eureka and Oklahoma! and won the ATG Curtain Call Award for her role in the acclaimed Australian musical Metro Street.

Mary Poppins goes into rehearsal in Melbourne in May when Verity will join the musical’s nine other Principals: Matt Lee as Bert, Philip Quast as Mr George Banks, Marina Prior as Mrs Winifred Banks, Sally Anne Upton as Mrs Brill, Christopher Rickerby as Robertson Ay, David Henry as Admiral Boom, Judi Connelli as Miss Andrew and Debra Byrne as The Bird Woman.

Auditions for the children’s roles were held in January and a casting announcement will be made shortly.

In Los Angeles on November 15 Cameron Mackintosh, Thomas Schumacher and Richard Eyre announced that they had cast eight of the nine adult Principal roles. The 25 members of the ensemble had also been chosen.

But although more than 650 performers auditioned in Melbourne and Sydney the part of Mary Poppins remained unfilled. The search for “practically perfect” Mary continued in five capitals in Australia, in three New Zealand cities and in London, for Australians working in the West End. This time more than 400 would-be Mary Poppins auditioned.

The casting of Hunt-Ballard ends months of speculation.

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