Elaine Cotter. Photo by John Bailey


As a young girl growing up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, Elaine Cotter put on shows for her family. She performed in her first community theater production when she was in the fifth grade. She frequently went to Broadway In Chicago productions with family members. And they all sang.

Cotter, an Indiana University senior pursuing a B.F.A. in musical theatre, says she was fortunate to be exposed to the performing arts early in life. Now, at age 22, she’s been chosen for the lead role in the Cardinal Stage Company production of Mary Poppins. The musical will run from December 18 to January 2 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

“I love this show and the Mary Poppins role so much,” says Cotter. “I’m going to be happy and smiling the whole time I’m working.”

She looks forward to playing the nanny that Julie Andrews, her musical idol, portrayed in the 1964 movie — and to flying on stage.

“It’s going to be a great challenge,” says Cotter. “I’ve gotten lucky to play strong young women. It’s very rewarding to play roles where you can connect with the character.”

Randy White, Cardinal Stage artistic director, says he’s thrilled to be able to give major roles to promising young performers, such as Cotter, who get excellent training at IU.

“Part of my responsibility is to work with the community and make sure that local actors have a chance to be in shows,” says White. “We also can complement IU students’ educational experiences and make them even stronger candidates in the theater world.”

White says he selected Cotter because of her exceptional singing and dancing and because of “a lovely quality about her.” Those combined attributes, he predicts, will lead to great success in the future.

After graduating in the spring, Cotter intends to move to New York City to pursue a career in theater. Already she has performed at the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts in Warsaw, Indiana; IU’s Indiana Festival Theatre; and the student-run University Players at IU. Her leading roles have included Jo March in Little Women the Musical, and Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park with George.

Cotter says she’s always felt comfortable in front of an audience. “I love being on stage,” she says. “It’s always been in my blood and heart since I was young.”