It seems my muse has hit me with another story...
I had so much fun doing this with Wicked, I've decided to give it a try with Mary Poppins. Being an actor myself, it's intriguing to write about the actors and actresses who play the parts we love so much. And since fanfiction is such a guilty pleasure anyway, I'm going to indulge myself and have fun doing this. I hope you'll read along. This may not become an actual novel, like Beneath the Caldera, but I think it will be a poignant and touching story.
So, if you're wondering what this is about, it's a story about a young woman named Briallen. She's fortunate enough to be playing the role of Mary Poppins in the stage production, and we'll see how a series of events, starting with a new cast member, changes her life. I hope you'll give it a chance, and I promise to give you a story that grips your heart.
I hope you'll review and let me know what you think, and if you are interested.
I've done some editing and reworking, now that I'm finishing this. Nothing major to the plot, but there are some new lines and slight chapter ending changes. (8/9/14)
Chapter 1: Change
It was a good performance that night, all things considered. The energy level ran high and the lines were delivered with a little extra punch. The choreography might've been less precise, but was more passionate. Toward the end, in the lower, softer moments, there had even been a few tears. And at curtain call, there had been whistling and cheering from fans who'd bought tickets knowing the show was losing a cast member. There were extra bows and thundering applause. It was a night when emotions ran high and the thrill of performance was infused with a certain sense of personal loss. So, given the past three hours, Briallen Griffith was exhausted.
Sitting in her dressing room, she took her time carefully removing her upswept wig and the layers of makeup. She pulled her hair from the pin curls, letting it fall past her shoulders in waves the color of smoldering flame. She carefully put away the false eyelashes, checking her eyes for residue from both glue and eyeliner. Briallen had always been secretly pleased with her eyes, which were the color of a cloudless sky, clear and dramatic. She often thought that, aside from her voice, her eyes might've been the feature that won her this part.
Finally satisfied with the makeup removal, she shed the rest of her costume and turned it over to her dresser. She stowed her iconic boots with her other shoes. She made sure all the elements that transformed her, nightly, into Mary Poppins were properly organized. Then, she pulled on some fitted sweats and her favorite, furry boots. She took a moment to straighten the vanity and then wrapped herself in her coat with the fur collar.
Grabbing her shoulder bag, she finally made her way out of the dressing room and towards the stage door. When she exited the theater into the brisk, early spring night, Briallen found Carter just outside. He was signing programs for a few lingering fans. She watched him scrawl 'Carter Jones' across the glossy pages and smile at the eager folks who'd come to meet him. They stared at him adoringly, and he smiled back at them with the same crooked grin that made everyone love his character.
Briallen stood there for a moment, unnoticed. Very often, the average audience member didn't recognize her as the show's lead once she was out of costume. Her fiery locks and petite stature belied the fact that she was the dark-haired, strong-willed character they'd just seen onstage. Tonight was no different. Realizing she was standing there, Carter took the time to let his fans know she was his costar.
"This," he said as he signed programs, "is our Mary Poppins."
The young girls, parents, and children looked her over in disbelief.
"I know," Briallen smiled, "I don't hold a candle to Mary. I hope it's not too disappointing."
When she spoke, she saw the recognition on their faces. It was always her voice that enchanted that gave her away. Briallen was Welsh, by birth. She'd grown up just outside of Cardiff, the third child of middle-class parents. They ran a small restaurant, serving traditional food to customers who'd been coming for more than twenty years. It was a good life, a safe, comfortable life, filled with tradition and family. So it had been difficult for Briallen to follow her dream of a career in musical theater to the states. However, after just three years of working in London's West End, hoping for a really significant break, and at the age of just twenty-five, she'd been offered this role. At her audition she'd somehow caught the attention of the producers looking to cast a new, Atlanta-based production of Mary Poppins.
"It's your eyes," Carter had often half-teased her, "and the lovely Welsh accent."
"It certainly wasn't my commanding stage presence," Briallen would roll her eyes in return.
Standing outside the stage door now, she could see these fans sizing her up as well. She was used to the reaction, and she knew what they were thinking.
She's shorter than I thought…she looks nothing like her character…except maybe the eyes…
To put them at ease, she spoke up again, "It's all right. I wouldn't recognize me, either. I hope you had a lovely evening."
The children smiled at her, enjoying her sing-song way of speaking. It was in her voice that they got a glimpse of their beloved character. One of the little girls held out her program for Briallen to sign, and she obliged.
"How do you say your name?" another asked.
"Briallen," she answered, "Bray-lynn."
"We'll miss you, Bert," one of the older girls said, "We've seen you four times since the show opened."
Carter smiled and let them take photos.
After another few minutes, the fans drifted away and Carter and Briallen were left alone. They stood there for a minute, watching the cars and the passersby.
"Well," Carter said, "it's done. My last show."
Briallen tried to smile, "Good riddance, I suppose," she teased.
"You're so ready to be rid of me?" he chuckled.
"Of course not," she admitted, "I'm terrified of working with someone new, someone from the states."
Carter nodded, "I know, but it's time to go home for a bit. It's been nearly two years now, and I promised Beth I would marry her."
Carter was originally from south London, making him quite a perfect fit for the character of Bert. Like Briallen, his accent fit the part.
She nodded, "I understand, really. You've played New York. Everyone loves you, but you deserve a bit of a break. And Beth has been awfully patient."
"She deserves to have me to herself for a little while," Carter added.
"Well, I do appreciate her allowing our friendship."
Carter smiled at her. After a moment, he said, "We should get to the party…"
Briallen agreed, "I think we're that last ones out, again."
"You're just slow," he teased.
She slapped him playfully and followed him down the street. They were meeting most of the cast at a funky restaurant and bar just down the street. Zapppatos served an amazing array of pastas, along with a creative assortment of cocktails. It was a fun place where the cast occasionally went to celebrate or just unwind. Tonight, they were giving Carter a proper send off.
The moment they came through the door, Carter was whisked away. In general, the cast loved him, and he had a way of disarming even those who might envy his position. This cast was quite varied in age and ability, which also made for a fun dynamic when they got together. The children made an appearance with their guardians just to say goodbye and then went home to bed. The rest, from the youngest dancers to the older ladies who played the Bird Woman and Mrs. Brill, stayed.
They all had a good dynamic, Briallen had to admit. They mostly got along, although they came from a wide variety of backgrounds. Trina, who played Mrs. Corry, was originally from Haiti, and the story of her transition to the states was fascinating. Allie, who played Winifred Banks, was actually from western Georgia. Her accent offstage was a far cry from the formal, British accent her character demanded. Allie was probably Briallen's closest friend, after Carter. They had spent their first couple of weeks during rehearsals laughing at how the English language came out of their mouths in such very different ways. Now, they were also roommates.
Carter, however, had been Briallen's best friend since their first read-through. They had so much in common that their relationship was as natural as breathing. He helped her navigate the culture of the states, and they were often homesick together. They reminisced about the rolling, misty country that was their homeland, where one could leave the bustle of a modern city and find a castle just over the hills. It was a place where the new existed concurrently with the old. Carter understood that being raised in the shadow of a shiny, modern city did not mean one let go of the traditions that had existed for centuries. He understood her ties to the Celtic roots of her Welsh upbringing, and he would listen when she talked about her Granny Llewellyn, who told stories and sang songs in Welsh.
Now, watching him move around the restaurant, laughing and reminiscing with the cast, Briallen realized how very much she would miss Carter. He had been her rock in this new country. He had made her feel at ease and made taking on such a massive, complicated role so much less intimidating. They'd had an excellent run, these past four months, and Briallen liked to think it was their chemistry that helped to make this new production so successful. He couldn't stay forever, though. She'd known that from the beginning.
Briallen was so lost in that thought that she didn't see Brennen until he was leaning on the table in front of her. Brennen was their male dance captain, and he was, as far as Briallen was concerned, most obnoxious.
"What's wrong, Poppins? You look like you've lost the will to live," he chided, sipping rum and coke.
Briallen looked up at him, more annoyed than usual, and snapped, "You really don't have to call me that."
Brennen smirked, "If the boot fits…"
She gave him a withering glance.
"I was just trying to be nice," he rolled his eyes, "As always, you're the life of the party."
The sarcasm wasn't lost on Briallen.
"It's a farewell party," she snapped, "It is a bit sad."
Brennen smirked, "That's right. Carter's going back to his chippie girlfriend."
Briallen cringed, "That's so very offensive."
"I'm just joking," Brennen laughed.
Briallen stared at him, not amused.
He sipped his drink, "You really need to unclench, Briallen. You're out of costume, you know? And Carter's engaged. Move on already. There's plenty of us who would gladly move on with you."
Briallen fought the urge to slap him. She was not, however, one to lash out in such a way. So she just stared at Brennen in disgust until he rolled his eyes and walked away. A few minutes later, Carter approached her, looking concerned.
"Are you not having fun?" he asked.
She smiled, "You know me, I'm not much for parties."
"You'd rather be reading, wouldn't you?" he teased.
Briallen nodded, smiling a little.
There was a pause, and Carter said, "You don't have to stay for me. Go home. We'll keep in touch, I'm certain."
Briallen cocked her head and said, "I think I will."
"I'll walk you out," Carter offered.
She stood, retrieved her coat, and they made their way through the crowded restaurant to the door. Once outside on the street, they faced off again.
Not sure what to say, Briallen smiled softly and quoted one of his lines from the show, "It's tonight, isn't it?"
Carter smiled in return, "Yes, it is."
"Look after yourself," she quoted herself this time.
Carter turned serious, "I'll miss you, but you'll be fine. You have all the talent in the world. Don't give your new Bert too hard of a time."
Briallen smiled, "I doubt that's possible."
There was a pause, "I leave early. The flight's at seven…" Carter stated.
"So, this is goodbye, then." Briallen added.
Carter nodded. Then he stepped in and hugged her tightly. When he pulled back, he kissed her forehead, much the way her older brothers used to.
"Stay out of trouble," he instructed.
"I will," she whispered.
Then, with one final smile, Briallen turned and walked away.
The following morning, Briallen sat in her apartment staring out the window and sipping coffee. She was glad it was her day off, since it had been a late night the day before. She was also glad for the rest before rehearsals with her new costar began the next morning. She was trying to gear herself up for learning a new partner.
Coming from her bedroom in her pajamas, Allie yawned and asked "Everything ok?"
Briallen nodded, "Yes. I suppose I just don't do very well with change."
"I wish I could relate. My life has always been about change," Allie quipped.
Briallen smiled as her roommate poured some coffee and sat down in the well-worn chair in the living room.
"Can I ask you something? And you not get mad at me?" Allie asked.
"All right," Briallen agreed.
"There's no judging, but, were you in love with him? With Carter?"
Briallen was taken aback, but she understood the reasoning behind the question. She wasn't entirely naïve. So she said, "No. I've always known he loves someone else. But…"
"I think I was I love with the idea of him," she admitted.
Allie cocked her head, curious.
"Carter is a rarity. He's sweet, considerate, kind, he's respectful," Briallen explained.
"You mean, the opposite of Brennen?" Allie smiled.
"Perhaps. He's just such a genuinely good person," Briallen mused.
"We'll find someone for you, Bray," Allie assured in her rolling, west Georgia accent, "Maybe someone who's not an actor. They're the worst, sometimes."
Briallen laughed, "Thank you, but I'm all right. I have the show. I have family back home. Carter will always be a good friend. I don't need a partner."
Allie chuckled, "You're so self-sufficient. I'm glad you agreed to room with me. I know you can afford to live alone, but you'd spend every day reading or staring at the trees. You need to live a little, Bray."
"Are you mothering me again?" Briallen asked with a smile.
"I've got five years on you," Allie laughed, pulling her ash-blonde hair on top of her head with an elastic, her hazel eyes twinkling, "I just want you to have some fun."
"Tomorrow will certainly be fun," Briallen rolled her eyes and then smiled at her own sarcasm.
Allie went along with the change of subject, and they chatted for a while about the next day's rehearsal, and their new Bert.
Tuesday's rehearsal was as grueling as Briallen had expected it to be. It was hard, after having developed such an established routine with Carter, to adjust to someone different. And Jackson was absolutely different. He was fresh off the national tour of the same show, which gave him experience. He knew the part, but he was the antithesis of Carter.
"Jackson Devereaux," he'd held out his hand and introduced himself that morning, running his other hand through his nearly black hair.
He was taller than Carter, who'd been more suited to Briallen's height of just five foot three. Also, where Carter was more approachably handsome, with bright eyes and an easy smile, Jackson was brooding and dark. His eyes were somewhere between caramel and milk chocolate, with dark, heavy lashes. His smile revealed dimples, which were more exotic than cute on him, and his features were strong, yet imperfect enough to make him seem earthy and mysterious.
After sizing each other up, they'd gotten to work quickly. The production stage manager had them run through all the choreography first, focusing on placement and flow. They were constantly tripping up, thrown off by each slight variation in interpretation or style. Brennen seemed to enjoy correcting them, wearing a smirk as he did so.
By the end of the rehearsal, they were tired, and there was still a show to do that night. The understudy was up for the part of Bert for the week, while they integrated Jackson into the cast, but Briallen still had to perform.
As everyone filed out of the rehearsal studio, Jackson hung back, collecting his jacket and bag. His eyes followed Briallen as she pulled on her coat and let her hair loose from the clasp she'd used to pull it back. He watched her walk away, noting that she seemed to have curves beneath the heavy coat. When they'd danced together, he'd had to admit that she was good. She was well proportioned, if a bit short, and her delicate features gave her a doll-like beauty.
Brennen, who'd been watching him study Briallen, approached and spoke up, "Are you checking out Poppins?"
"What?" Jackson turned.
"Briallen. I call her Poppins," Brennen explained, "because she's incredibly typecast."
Jackson still looked confused.
Brennen stuck out his hand, "Brennen Strause, dance captain. We haven't officially met."
Jackson shook his hand and said of Briallen, "Poppins? Really? She's cute."
Brennen rolled his eyes, "Maybe. But it's not worth your time. She won't even flirt."
Jackson smirked, "She thinks she's too good?"
Brennen shook his head, "No, she just…she doesn't talk. She likes to read. She's weird. But she's good on stage, so you're in luck."
Jackson nodded and said no more. He watched Briallen, who'd waited for Allie before turning to go. As she walked away, he felt a rush. She was a challenge and, lately, it was hard to find a challenge. She was different from his usual type, with hair like fire and piercing eyes. She wasn't the typical blonde he usually went for. And the genuine, British accent was alluring. So he watched her and felt a rush of excitement.
"Poppins," he said to Brennen, smirking, "I'll have to remember to call her that when she's screaming my name."
Brennen laughed, and added, "That will never happen, but I had a feeling you and I would get along. Meet me after the show tonight at Trixx down the street, two blocks up. I'll let you know which of the dancers are worth hooking up with."
Jackson gave a smile and a nod, and then left for the afternoon quite pleased. Atlanta, it seemed, was going to be decent.