Con O’Shea-Creal really, really wanted to be in “Mary Poppins.”
So much so that the young actor – fresh out of college in 2008 – began auditioning for the Broadway production. And he auditioned. And auditioned. And auditioned.
“For four years, I’d get called in to audition,” O’Shea-Creal says. “One time the costumes fit another guy better than me. For whatever reason, I wasn’t getting cast, and I was starting to have a mental complex about it. … But I went in for what I thought was going to be the last time, and lo and behold, I booked the tour.”
For six months, he understudied the role of Bert, the chimney sweep portrayed in the Disney movie by Dick Van Dyke, and for a year after that, he played the role on tour.
That tour has ended, but O’Shea-Creal is picking up Bert’s broom once again, playing the role in Red Mountain Theatre Company’s production of “Mary Poppins” that opens July 10 and runs through Aug. 2 at ASFA’s Dorothy Jemison Day Theatre.
He plays opposite Kristen Sharp as the magical nanny who changes the lives of the Banks family. The show includes classic tunes such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Step in Time.”
It’s that last number that had on tour had O’Shea-Creal dancing around the stage’s proscenium – dancing sideways and upside down in the process – a feat he’ll be recreating in RMTC’s production directed by Robin Lewis.
“Honestly, I had worked for Robin before, and when he called me for this, I wasn’t expecting that we’d do that,” says O’Shea-Creal, adding that the dance is often done without the special effects. “The show can be achieved without that magic, so that was just a bonus.”
O’Shea-Creal, 29, considers himself a song-and-dance man in the tradition of Van Dyke, Fred Astaire and others. Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, the young performer idolized Astaire, born in nearby Omaha.
“My mom always had old flicks playing around the house, and she eventually knew every plot line of every old movie,” he says. “When I saw Fred Astaire tap dancing with firecrackers in ‘Holiday Inn,’ I was pretty hooked.”
O’Shea-Creal, who is living in Homewood with his wife and two children during the run of “Mary Poppins,” says he’s already impressed with the city and, especially, the caliber of talent at RMTC. The show has musical direction by Camille Rolla and a cast that in addition to Sharp includes Emily Herring, Mike Stephens, Amy Johnson and Tam DeBolt.
“I’ve been really thrilled with the level of talent here and everyone’s ability to get the show up,” O’Shea-Creal says. “We’ve really found the heart of the show really quickly.” Alec Harvey AL.com/Birmingham News