‘All about the magic’: Mary Poppins tea parties sell out in Santa Rosa

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Mary Poppins waltzed in on Sunday with an umbrella in hand, as if she descended from a cloud, much to the delight of families and children at the Tudor Rose English Tea Room in downtown Santa Rosa.

With the release last Wednesday of “Mary Poppins Returns,” starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, tea room owner Angela Grant said her Mary Poppins etiquette tea party events have sold out in the last year and a half.

She’s hosted about 16 Mary Poppins tea parties, where attendees are taught tea etiquette — how to properly drink out of fine china with pinkies up and have good posture — while being entertained by a performance by Mary Poppins herself.

“Honestly, for me, it’s all about the magic. And if you can make people happy, even if it’s just for an hour, what a wonderful thing to be able to do, to make a lot of people happy and have them escape,” said Grant, who has lived in the North Bay for about 20 years and hails from Liverpool, England.

During the tea parties, Mary Poppins is played by Kori Parlett, a classically trained singer with experience in opera, jazz and musical theater.

“I love seeing the magic in the children’s eyes, and watching the families have a nice transformation into another place together,” Parlett said.

She sang songs from the classic 1964 movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, including “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “A Spoonful of Sugar,” along with some holiday tunes.

Parlett wore a costume from the famed chalk drawing scene, where Mary Poppins interacts with technicolor cartoon characters. She had on a white lace dress with a pink corset, umbrella and gloves, and a white wide-brimmed hat with tulle to hold it in place under the chin.

“I love that she’s kind of a tough love kind of a character because I feel that that’s really important for children’s growth — to guide them with love, but also they need to understand that they’re responsible for their actions,” said Parlett, who works at the Early Learning Institute in Rohnert Park.

Diana Porter of Rohnert Park bought tickets for the sold-out tea event about a month ago. About nine ladies in her family attended, including grandchildren.

Porter said she loves tea and wanted something festive for her family to do, but something different than the usual holiday traditions. She also was excited for the younger ones to take part in the etiquette lesson.

“I like the children to learn. We call it ‘the human lesson,’” Porter said.

Corina Kelley drove from Novato to enjoy the singalong, eat cucumber sandwiches and drink raspberry vanilla and Tudor rose tea with friends and her daughter, Ireland, 9. Everyone at their table wore floppy hats from the Tea Room’s wall of hats and had just seen Mary Poppins Returns on Friday.

“Her voice is spectacular,” said Kelley of Parlett’s musical performance.

Stella Rose Negri, 5, came from Windsor with her mother and a group of friends. She chose an enormous, dusty rose floral hat to wear for teatime, and was happy to take a photo with Parlett dressed as Mary Poppins.

Asked what she loved about Mary Poppins, Negri didn’t hesitate.

“Magic!” she said.

Toward the end of teatime, Mary Poppins sang “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” as she handed out gifts to the children.

“Just one, dear,” she quipped mid-song, causing laughter in the crowd.

She then announced the winds were sending her in a different direction. She opened her umbrella and out she went through the front door down Fourth Street, surprising people walking around downtown Santa Rosa.

“There’s Mary Poppins!” said a beer drinker next door at the Russian River Brewery Co. patio.

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707-521-5216 or susan.minichiello@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @susanmini.

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