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Brown Cast As Poppins On Broadway

This undated file photo, originally supplied by the producers of "Beauty and the Beast," shows Ashley Brown, who currently stars in the long-running musical based on that Disney animated film and will portray the world's most famous nanny when "Mary Poppins" opens Nov. 16 at Broadway's New Amsterdam Theatre, the producers announced Monday, May 8. 2006. (AP Photo/producers of "Beauty and the Beast,Joan Marcus)
AP Photo/Joan Marcus
Broadway has found its Mary Poppins, and it's Belle from "Beauty and the Beast."

Ashley Brown, who currently stars in the long-running musical based on the Disney animated film, will portray the world's most famous nanny when "Mary Poppins" opens Nov. 16 at the New Amsterdam Theatre, producers Cameron Mackintosh and Thomas Schumacher announced Monday.

Brown will be joined by Gavin Lee, who portrays Bert the chimney sweep in the London production, which has been running there since December 2004.

"The moment Ashley Brown auditioned for us and members of our creative team, we knew we had found our Mary Poppins," Mackintosh and Schumacher said in a joint statement. Further casting will be announced later.

The 23-year-old Brown made her Broadway debut as Belle in September 2005. A graduate of the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Brown appeared in "On the Record," a celebration of songs from Disney movies which toured the country.

The hit musical about the London nanny at 17 Cherry Tree Lane is based on the P.L. Travers stories and the 1964 Disney film. It begins preview performances Oct. 14 in New York.

Disney's "The Lion King" will give its last performance at the New Amsterdam on June 4 and move to the newly renovated Minskoff Theatre, where it will reopen June 13.

"Mary Poppins" will feature many of the original songs from the film, which won five Academy Awards, including best actress for Julie Andrews' performance in the title role.

The score was written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, who won two Academy Awards — best score and song ("Chim Chim Cheree"). Their music also includes such songs as "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Let's Go Fly a Kite" and "Feed the Birds."

The stage version features new songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. It will be directed by Richard Eyre, with co-direction and choreography by Matthew Bourne.