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Merry about Poppins

U of M grad gets title role in Rainbow Stage production

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Paula Potosky, who in the last few weeks has emerged as an actress to watch, will play the title role of Mary Poppins at Rainbow Stage this August.

"I'm utterly thrilled," she said yesterday. "This is my first big lead. I feel that if there is any lead I can play this is it. It feels natural to play Mary Poppins."

The 32-year-old University of Manitoba graduate recently impressed as young Phyllis in the Dry Cold Productions of Stephen Sondheim's Follies and currently shines in The Penelopiad at RMTC Warehouse. Last summer she excelled as Grace Farrell in Rainbow's Annie.

So it's no surprise that director Ann Hodges opted to promote the classically trained soprano to centre stage as the magical English nanny who mysteriously enters and turns around the lives of the wealthy but troubled Banks family.

After studying voice with opera star Tracy Dahl and receiving her degrees in music and teaching, the St. James product taught for five years at Glenlawn Collegiate. Turning 30 and having a daughter inspired her to return to the stage, which she did with a chorus role in White Christmas at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in 2010.

Besides performing, she teaches musical theatre at Royal Winnipeg Ballet as well as voice privately to 22 students.

"It's been a pretty exciting 2013," says Potosky. "I've been blessed with a lot of work."

Rainbow Stage also announced that other principal players would be Stephen Roberts as Bert, Carson Nattrass as George Banks, Laura Olafson as Winifred Banks, Jenesa Lee as Jane Banks and Noah Luis as Michael Banks.

New artistic director Ray Hogg, who will be directing the company's season-opener Buddy -- The Buddy Holly Story (June 11-July 4), has cast Jeff Giles to play the rock music pioneer, along with Ryan Voth as drummer Jerry Allison and Michael Cox as bassist Joe B. Mauldin. Kimberley Rampersad will play Buddy's wife, Maria Elena, Curtis Brown is Ritchie Valens and Gerrit Theule is The Big Bopper

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Gone With the Wind was a major box office hit for Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.

"The attendance was excellent and sold more casual or single tickets of any production in the last nine years (or since The Rocky Horror Show)," says general manger Camilla Holland.

The Nikki Landau adaptation based on the bestselling novel by Margaret Mitchell drew 88 per cent of capacity, exceeding management's aggressive revenue targets. Bethany Jillard, as the feisty Scarlett O'Hara, proved a big favourite with RMTC audiences, as did Tom McCamus as the roguish Rhett Butler.

"The attendance was up there with White Christmas and Pride and Prejudice," adds Holland, in her second season at RMTC. "It's the first time that a world première that has began its life at RMTC has gone onto that list; traditionally those big sellers are established or classic plays and musicals."

Although as many as eight artistic directors came to Winnipeg to see Gone With the Wind, there are no concrete plans yet for another production.

"We really hope it will have a long life," says Holland. "I think we will see this adaptation on Canadian stages again."

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Alisa Palmer, the newly installed artistic director of the National Theatre School's English section, will launch her first audition tour in Winnipeg on Monday.

Palmer, a well-known Canadian director, will be seeing 20 Manitoba young people applying to be part of the 2013-14 acting class at the Montreal-based institution. They are among the 400-500 wannabes from across the country vying for only 12 spots: six female and six male.

The demand for training in theatre has not dropped off despite the difficult economic environment and challenges to arts funding.

"These young people don't care about that," Palmer says during a telephone interview. "These young people have every reason to say this (profession) is not wise economically but they are determined to do it."

Palmer will be joined at the audition table at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre with associate artistic director Robb Paterson. They are looking for aspiring actors who offer commitment, stage presence and no plan B.

"The National Theatre School offers such a rigorous training, it's a real immersion," says Palmer, who was last in Winnipeg to direct Mrs. Warren's Profession at the RMTC Warehouse in 2012. "You wouldn't want to be here if you had any doubts about what your passions are."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 28, 2013 C6

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