Spotlight: Actress Blythe Wilson brings brassiness and a big voice to Mary Poppins at the Princess of Wales Theatre
In a world of instant stars and stunt casting, Blythe Wilson is a throwback to the brassy belters and hoofers of theatre’s golden era. Behind her polished, aristocratic veneer—all long limbs and stately grace—lies a big, show-stopping voice and an astonishing versatility. Wilson has been a stalwart in the Toronto scene for the better part of two decades, lending her substantial stage presence to several of the Broadway bel canto roles. She stole the show (from Colm Feore, no less) as hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Nancy in Stratford’s 2006 production of Oliver! The following season, she brought a rare depth to lovestruck farm girl Laurey Williams—a part not known for its complexity—in Oklahoma! She even vetoed a stand-in dancer for the show’s famous dream ballet, performing it herself.
Since then, Wilson’s audience has only gotten bigger—more than 20 cities bigger, in fact. She snagged the part of Winifred Banks in the touring production of Mary Poppins while playing the Baroness in Mirvish’s The Sound of Music. After flying to New York to audition for Disney execs, she was told the part was hers the very next day. Don’t expect the suffragette-themed silliness of the 1964 film: in the stage show, Mrs. Banks is pragmatic, strong-willed and a little bit wistful, dreaming of her abandoned career on the stage. (Wilson’s powerful soprano gets a workout in the poignant second-act ballad, “Being Mrs. Banks.”) This month, Wilson returns home for Mary Poppins’ extended Toronto stop, and it’s good that she’s back—we were getting tired of sharing her.
Nov. 10 to Jan. 8
Princess of Wales Theatre