Okotoks girl’s life a spoonful of sugar
Theatre: Actor performs in Mary Poppins
Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 08:28 am
For decades, children wanted Mary Poppins to be their nanny and a talented 12-year-old Okotoks girl is living that dream.
Zasha Rabie is wrapped up in the magic of Mary Poppins six days a week playing the role of the ever-curious Jane Banks in Theatre Calgary’s musical production based on the stories by P.L. Travers and the popular Disney movie that brought a loveable nanny into living rooms and hearts since 1964.
“I love the magic of it, how Mary Poppins amazes the kids with magic,” said Rabie. “I love all the singing and dancing.”
Rehearsals for the musical production began in February and the unforgettable characters began reaching audiences in March, first in Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre and now in Calgary’s EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts Tuesdays to Sundays.
While some young actors spend hours preparing for auditions as they strive to reach their dreams to make it big in the business, Rabie never acted or even auditioned in a play before Mary Poppins.
It was after attending a summer musical theatre camp in Calgary when a director at the Calgary Actors’ Studio contacted her parents and suggested Rabie would be great for the role of Jane Banks in Theatre Calgary’s Mary Poppins.
Auditions had already closed, but Rabie was squeezed into the callback schedule in July. Shortly after, she learned she got the role of Jane.
It was like a dream come true for the Grade 7 Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School student.
“This was something I wanted to do since I was a kid,” said Rabie. “I always loved singing and I always loved being on stage.”
Rabie’s mom Ana-Maria Oelschig, a medical doctor in Okotoks, couldn’t believe it.
“I was freaked out,” she said. “You don’t believe your kid is that good that she would beat out kids in Calgary, Vancouver and Ontario. She doesn’t have any formal training.”
Rabie had been singing since she can remember, but her experience on stage was limited. Now, she is one of the main characters in a musical.
“It’s unbelievable that I get to do this,” she said. “It’s so much fun because you’re on stage almost all the time so if something goes wrong in one of the scenes you always have to be on your toes.”
Fitting Rabie’s role in a musical into the family’s hectic schedule took a lot of juggling and rescheduling, but they managed just nicely with the help of family, friends and Rabie’s teachers at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School.
“These people work crazy hours,” Oelschig said. “They get there at 10 in the morning and you pick them up at 11 at night sometimes. She gets home at midnight and doesn’t wind down until 1 and sleeps until 10. If there’s a matinee at the theatre she’s there at 12:20. We haven’t had a family dinner for three months.”
While the family spent hours running Rabie to and from rehearsals, Oelschig said there was still a feeling of disbelief that her daughter was playing a large role in a major production.
When Oelschig sat down to the opening night of Mary Poppins in Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, she cried all the way through her daughter’s performance.
“She sang beautifully and she pulled it off with such ease,” she said.
“I was mesmerized by my own child. It’s unbelievable to think it’s my kid. I see her cover for people when they forget their lines. There is nothing this one can’t handle.”
Ironically, Oelschig often envisioned herself on stage performing in plays when she was a child.
“This was my dream,” she said. “My life turned out differently.”
Rabie isn’t only dreaming her mother’s dream, she plans to live it.
“She wants to be on Broadway,” Oelschig said. “She would give it all up just for that.”
Of course, Oelschig is keeping her daughter on the right track and ensuring her grades continue to be a priority.
Rabie said she has no plans to audition for any plays or musical theatres in the near future, staying focused on school instead.
Rabie can’t help but feel excitement every time she steps on stage as Jane - even after performing the role more than 70 times.
“I love it every night,” she said. “It’s so much fun performing for a new audience.”
To learn more about Mary Poppins or buy tickets to the musical go to www.theatrecalgary.com