Meet Bert otherwise known as Matt Lee.
In his native Australia, Matt Lee is certainly a household name. A strong stage CV, a high TV profile and even a top theatrical award have helped make one of the go-to names for major entertainment projects Down Under.
He joins the UK cast of Mary Poppins with a bit of a pedigree. His performance as Bert in the show in his home country led to him winning the 2011 Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor In A Musical.
When the chance came up to return to the show on the other side of the world and reprise the role in this country, he jumped at it. Aside from the lead role of Mary, this is the must-have role and it also gave him the chance to once again work with the production’s co-producer, the globally-renowned impresario Cameron Mackintosh.
“This is my fifth production for Cameron now,” Matt laughed. “The first show I did when I was 17 was Rent which he produced. I did The Witches of Eastwick which was the first time I worked with the current production team. I then did Miss Saigon and then Mary Poppins and then they asked me to come over to the UK to be a part of this production.”
While Mary Poppins is a production he is passionate about and he is winning the hearts of UK audiences, it is not his first-time wowing people in this country. That came back in 2000 when he was working with the Australian band Sister2Sister as their choreographer, which saw him tour with the likes of boy-band Five and the legendary Queen of Pop Britney Spears.
Matt is eager to talk about the role of Bert. In common with the movie and PL Travers’ original stories, Bert’s background is a little mysterious but that essence of a cheeky chirpy guy is still there. “Bert is a jack of all trades. He does whatever he needs to get by. He is a street artist, a chimney-sweep and a lamplighter. I think his magic in the show comes from Mary. Mary enables him to go on this journey with the kids to teach them these lessons. It isn’t the first time he has been on this journey. People say she may have been his nanny. He is head-over-heels in love with her and he never gets her.”
Although Matt has been in the show before, he is enjoying the chance to work on a new production with a new cast. He explained: “Seeing the show through new eyes with an amazingly talented and seeing their interpretations of the roles are fantastic. Zizi Strallen is the most talented Mary I have ever worked with. She is so great at what she does.”
So though he’s missing his Vegemite, Matt can content himself with a spoonful of sugar!