For those seeking a career in the musical theater, life on the road can be a blessing and a curse. Being cast in a touring production of a Broadway musical means steady work — eight performances a week, a substantial paycheck and per diem that takes care of meals, lodging and other related expenses.
But traveling to a different city every week can take its toll on any performer, regardless of age. Being on the road also means living out of a suitcase for months at a time. Furthermore, an actor might be in San Francisco when an important audition is being held in New York.
For the two leads appearing in the Disney/Cameron Mackintosh tour of “Mary Poppins,” which opens in Oklahoma City on Election Day, this show is a major credit on their resumes and an opportunity they relish. The rigors of the road clearly haven't dampened their spirits.
Con O'Shea-Creal, a 2008 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, plays the happy-go-lucky chimney sweep Bert. Madeline Trumble, a University of Michigan grad, portrays the title character in this musical that catapulted a young Julie Andrews to fame.
While both have contracts that run through January, the young actors approached their roles quite differently. As a student at Michigan, Trumble had limited opportunities to perform because the musical theater program was so competitive.
“I never thought this was anything I could do,” Trumble said recently. “In college, I did a couple of plays and some ensemble roles, but this role seemed so out of reach. I got the (“Mary Poppins”) audition because of my showcase and then had about three callbacks before I was hired as an understudy on the tour. I'm even more appreciative of getting this role because of that.”
In contrast, O'Shea-Creal worked steadily as a student at OU, landing roles in “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” “Anything Goes,” “Company” and “Urinetown.” He was also cast in Lyric Theatre productions of “Swing!” and “42nd Street” and appeared in four consecutive productions of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic's “A Very Merry Pops.”
Following graduation, O'Shea-Creal headed to New York, where he quickly landed roles in the Broadway musical “White Christmas” (limited holiday runs in 2008 and 2009), “Annie Get Your Gun” at the Goodspeed Opera House and “Singin' in the Rain” in Westchester, N.Y.
Resilience pays off
All the while, this versatile performer had his eyes on playing the chimney sweep in “Mary Poppins.”
“For a song and dance man, Bert was a role that was constantly on my radar,” O'Shea-Creal said recently. “I didn't know if it would happen, but I was determined to do everything I could to try to get there.