National touring production of 'Mary Poppins' comes to Oklahoma City

University of Oklahoma graduate Con O'Shea-Creal portrays the chimney sweep Bert in the national touring production of the musical “Mary Poppins,” which will be performed in Oklahoma City on Tuesday through Nov. 11.
BY RICK ROGERS rrogers@opubco.com Published: November 4, 2012

“I first auditioned for ‘Mary Poppins' in 2008 while I was in ‘White Christmas.' I probably went in about 10 times every year from that point. I showed up so often they knew what song I was going to sing. I also got to the point where I didn't think I could audition for the show any more.

“But I critiqued every aspect of my audition and kept at it. Last year, I think I was called back 14 times. A great gift from that experience is resilience. You audition no matter how many times they ask you to. It finally worked out for me. I had been understudying Bert for about five months and while I was on hiatus from the show, I got the call that I was going to take over the role.”

Based on the “Mary Poppins” novels by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film, the stage musical opened in London in December 2004. Laura Michelle Kelly won an Olivier Award for her role as Mary Poppins; the production also won an award for choreography.

The Broadway production opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York in November 2006 and won a Tony Award the following June for best scenic design. Still playing to packed houses, the production will celebrate its sixth anniversary on Nov. 16.

Nine of the film's 17 musical numbers — written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman — were retained for the stage production, which was subsequently augmented with seven new songs by British songwriters George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

O'Shea-Creal said that after hearing one of Stiles and Drewe's new numbers, one of the Sherman brothers reportedly called it “the best song he never wrote.”

The opportunity to perform in a city where you were born or attended school is a high point for actors in any touring production. This will mark O'Shea-Creal's first opportunity to return to Oklahoma City. He's also scheduled to conduct master classes for OU musical theater students.

“My whole family is coming down from Nebraska, and OU's musical theater school has bought up a block of tickets to see the show,” O'Shea-Creal said. “The Oklahoma performances will allow me to give something back and say thanks to all the people at OU, Lyric Theatre and the Philharmonic for giving me such great opportunities.”