‘Mean Girls’ star Kerry Butler helps Shore kids get ‘Mary Poppins’ ready to fly
Photos by: Doug Hood
Their rehearsal room was packed with all of the essentials: piano, scripts, speakers, tap shoes, water bottles.
But this group of young Shore actors also had a secret weapon: Broadway veteran and “Mean Girls” star Kerry Butler.
Butler has paid a pair of visits to Seashore Day Camp in Long Branch to mentor the young thespians of the “On Broadway” program as they prepare to stage “Mary Poppins Jr.” next month. “Mean Girls” is Butler’s 11th Broadway show since making her debut in “Blood Brothers” in 1993. Among her other credits are Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors” and Penny in “Hairspray.”
“Wow, you just learned that?” she asked Angela Carter, 10, after the youngster performed the sinister “Brimstone and Treacle” last week.
“Why do you think she’s so mean,” she asked about Angela’s character, Miss Andrew. “Whenever I play a mean character, I like to think I’m the nicest person in the world and I’m doing this because I am so nice — they need a favor. It’s important to make conscious choices.”
She asked Angela to perform the song again, this time pretending to be as nice as she could.
“Sometimes the director will tell you to do the opposite, to show that you are directable,” Butler explained to the campers.
“Your voice sounded so powerful there,” she said as Angela finished the song the second time, to thunderous applause from her castmates.
“It was so much fun,” said Angela, a student at Gregory Elementary School in Long Branch. “When she told me to change my character, it really inspired me.”
Butler shared lots of tips with the eager campers, who soaked up every word.
She asked them to find the truth in their characters, and then find their “walk.”
“I play three characters in ‘Mean Girls,’ ” Butler said. “I showed them their walks and then had them find their characters’ walks,” she said.
“Remember to find your backstory, your walk, who your friends are,” she instructed the campers. “A part with no lines can steal the show!”
Butler also reminded them to think about their actions and the motivations behind them.
“What are you trying to accomplish,” she asked them. “Remember, a song starts in one place and ends in a different place. Something happens, so something changes — otherwise, why sing the song?”
It was fun to do improv with Butler and find her character’s walk, said Nora Collard, 11, of Rumson, who is playing Mary Poppins. She was star-struck to be working with the stage vet.
“I saw the ‘Mean Girls’ website and saw how she’s really famous,” Nora said.
Allison Plumlee, 7, of Long Branch shared her sentiment. “I said, ‘Whoa, there’s a Broadway star!’ “
Allison, one of the youngest campers, said it’s been “really fun” and “really exciting” working with Butler. And in watching her work with some of the other campers, she said she thought, “I can do that, too.”
Olivia Conner, 12, of Oceanport said it’s been “really cool to get her opinions” as the campers get ready for “Mary Poppins,” which is set for Aug. 10 to 12 at Long Branch High School.
Logan Kaplan, 12, of Wayside said that Butler reminded him of an important part of acting: fun.
“You have to have fun while you’re acting because if you’re not having fun, there’s no point in doing it,” he said.
“Mary Poppins” will see the campers literally get a chance to soar, with the famed company Flying by Foy providing flying effects for Mary and company.
“Mary Poppins” will cap off the 12th season of theater at Seashore Day Camp. The show is co-directed by Renee Harrison Pincus of Jackson and Marie Malara of Sayreville. Erin Burtchaell, 18, of Ocean, a former camper, choreographs.
In addition to rehearsing and putting on the show, campers have a chance to see Butler in “Mean Girls,” followed by a meet-and-greet, as well as take in “Frozen” and “Once on This Island” on Broadway.
The “On Broadway” theater camp is one of many options offered at Seashore Day Camp, which was founded nearly 100 years ago. Seashore also offers a full-year school for pre-schoolers through eighth-graders. For more information, visit seashorecampandschool.com.
“Mary Poppins Jr.” is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 10, 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12, at Long Branch High School. You can pre-order tickets for $12 by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or purchase them at the door for $15.
The show already has one famous fan.
“Your performance is going to be incredible,” Butler told the campers as she hugged them goodbye.