What We Can Learn from Mary Poppins
“We don’t have a magical nanny,” states Con O’Shea-Creal, who plays Bert in the National Tour of Mary Poppins, “but we do interact with people everyday.” For him, that is where the audience can benefit from the life lessons that lie behind the magic and splendor of the production.
Based on the children’s books by P.L. Travers, the musical features the beloved songs from the 1964 film as well as new songs. While there are scenes from the movie in the stage version, most of the scenes take their inspiration from the books and take the audience along a few new adventures. All the while, the children and the family learn lessons from Mary.
While the show is called Mary Poppins, the character isn’t the typical protagonist of a story. “Mary Poppins is not a character that changes; she is constant. It is the family that really changes,” O’Shea-Creal explains. When we examine the changes in Mr. and Mrs. Banks along with the children’s growth through the show, we can learn to improve ourselves as well. Pretty deep stuff for a children’s show, right?
For him Mary Poppins is more than a kid’s story. It is a story that everyone, young and old, can relate to and take away something valuable.
“It’s family entertainment, not just for children. The scenes are very pertinent to today,” he comments. “These are well-formed three dimensional characters.”
For example, he mentions that Mr. Banks’ struggles are universal and that fathers watching the show can relate to his wanting to be a good father, or women can relate Mrs. Banks’ desire to be a good wife and mother. Through the characters’ realization that life isn’t in money or social events, but in the blessings they already have in their children and family, we as an audience can embody those lessons in our own lives.
“Being a little more objective and putting ourselves in others’ shoes that is what Mary Poppins is trying to teach,” he states. “We should really try to find common ground and a resolution to our problems.”
In playing Bert, he gets to be a part of teaching the lessons, and that is one thing that he enjoys about the character. He likes the fact that Bert will stop whatever he is doing to help Mary when she arrives with the children. He asks himself, “How can I help her teach them what they need to learn.”
But, like the family in the musical, the audience doesn’t have to take the medicine alone; it goes down much better with a little sugar. This show is one that will delight all ages with its music and spectacle, and it is that “Disney magic” that audiences expect.
While there are some actors that will shy away from being a part of the Disney machine, O’Shea-Creal embraces it. “It’s been a great experience. They are a company that protects their product. Their product is family entertainment, and they do it very well,” he says. “They have put together a creative team they really trust, and it is a top tier creative team.”
It is the dedication of not just Disney, but all involved with the production that has made it so successful. According to O’Shea-Creal, this cast has gelled into a cohesive group that works together very well to present the Disney magic onstage each night.
One of the show’s most thrilling moments is the song called “Step in Time,” which many may remember from the film. “People get really excited. I think that there is a great build up that leads up to the big show stopper that ‘Step In Time’ is,” he says.
The intensive number requires much stamina, which can be a difficult task some nights. “The challenge is to maintain composure and execute it properly,” he states. For him, remembering to breath during all the dancing and singing the song requires is important.
“I forget to take a deep breath and keep breathing,” he admits. “I love doing the number because it is so fun – an adrenaline rush.”
Presented by Theater of the Stars, Mary Poppins plays at the Fox Theatre April 2 to 7, 2013. Tickets are available at the Fox Theatre box office, by phone at 1-855-ATL-TIXX, or online at www.foxatltix.com. For more information about Theater of the Star’s upcoming season, please visit the theater’s website.
By: Kenny Norton