Blair revels in the musical limelight

Blair Anderson as Robertson Ay in Mary Poppins. Photo by Johan Persson
Blair Anderson as Robertson Ay in Mary Poppins. Photo by Johan Persson

Appearing alongside the Singing Kettle gave him his first taste of the limelight, reveals Midlothian musical theatre star Blair Anderson.

Standing on stage at the Festival Theatre, dressed in an over-sized American footballer’s costume, the five-year-old Anderson was hooked.

He admits: “I have no idea why I was an American footballer but remember being a bit starstruck. I guess it was all the bright lights.”

Anderson, who attended Bonnyrigg Primary and Lasswade High, has returned to the capital in Cameron Mackintosh’s smash hit production of Mary Poppins, playing the accident-prone Robertson Ay, servant to the Banks family.

“He’s so much fun to play. We have a lot of giggles and it’s great to be working with Wendy Fergusson who plays the cook,” he smiles.

Preparing to return to the theatre where he was first bitten by the showbiz bug is a big deal for Anderson, who reflects that despite his early stage debut, and numerous appearances with Forth Children Theatre, it wasn’t until the age of 17 that he decided he wanted a life on the stage.

“I never ever said I wanted to be an actor but it was always something I loved. Any opportunity to do it, I was there. It just didn’t seem like a realistic dream.

“I guess that’s why I never said it out loud.

“It wasn’t something anyone in Bonnyrigg really did, but if they did, it was always a case of ‘Of course you do, now what’s your back-up?’

“Eventually I got bored of saying what my back-up was; that I wanted to be a journalist, an architect, to do languages, to teach music or drama... by then I knew my fall back would be something in the industry I love.”

After graduating from The Arts Educational School, in London, he landed his first job in the 1970s musical Blockbuster. In Suessical he was The Cat in the Hat and in Singing in the Rain he played Cosmo Brown.

The auditions for Mary Poppins certainly weren’t a breeze. Anderson had to audition eight times over a period of two months before securing the role.

“Cameron Mackintosh has shaped musical theatre,” he added. “I’ve seen so many productions he has been involved in that I had to pinch myself when I first met him at the Prince Edward Theatre.”

If his journey back to the Festival Theatre has been an eventful one, it has also been a bit of a rollercoaster for his parents, Irene, a learning assistant at Bonnyrigg Primary, and dad Alan, an electrician with Scottish Power.

“They have been through the mill with nerves and worry, but now they’re very proud and have invited every one of my neighbours and everyone down the local to come and see the show,” he laughs.

Mary Poppins, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, until May 21.