Bobby Mahurin at the 2016 Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musical Theater Awards

When Lake Highlands High School senior Bobby Mahurin was 3 years old, parents Lynn and Mike noticed he wasn’t tracking with peers and arranged for multiple rounds of testing. He was diagnosed with moderate delays in speech and motor skills, and Lynn arranged for occupational therapy, speech work and physical treatments at a program nearby. He enrolled, and thrived, in RISD’s PPCD – Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities. She couldn’t shake the feeling, though, that there was more she could be doing to address his motor skill challenges.

Lynn enrolled the darling redhead in classes at ASI Gymnastics.

“He attended class twice a week and, although he couldn’t keep up, he was never made to feel different or separated from the group,” says Lynn. “When all the kids were on a low balance beam, Bobby walked alongside them, staying balanced on a strip of tape on the floor. When all the other kids were jumping along a ladder-type pattern on the floor, Bobby was given a modified exercise to learn to jump with two feet. I’ll never forget the joy on his face to have mastered this skill.”

Lynn attributes the contributions of his ASI coaches to his ability to mainstream at Moss Haven, and his early issues are certainly not slowing him down today. When the curtain goes up on LHHS’ production of Mary Poppins Jan. 26th, Bobby will star as Bert, the role made famous by Dick Van Dyke.

It won’t be Bobby’s first time on the LHHS stage.

“I did Guys and Dolls with ACT [Artists of Christian Talent at Lake Highlands United Methodist Church], that was a really cool show,” says Bobby. “I did that show because it’s my dad’s favorite. As a sophomore, I was the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz [at LHHS]. That was my first chance to have a leading role, which was cool because I was in pretty much every scene – even more scenes probably than this show. Last year I did Kiss Me Kate – I was Lucentio – and the premise of Kiss Me Kate is a play-within-a-play.”

For his work in Kiss Me Kate, Bobby was nominated by the Dallas Summer Musicals as Best Supporting Actor.

“I’ve learned it takes a village to do a musical,” Bobby says. “We’ve got the Highlandettes here helping us do the dance, and then set design – you can’t think of yourself as one person. You have to all move together. This musical is very complex – there’s a lot of stuff going on. You’ve really got to act as a unit.”

Bobby observes that school musicals are unlike any other organization or activity on campus.

“Musicals draw a lot of different student groups – especially choir, theatre and Highlandettes. Then we also have 3 or 4 cheerleaders, some band members, we’ve had football players, Mr. Banks is [played by] a baseball player…and, honestly, some of these people, I wouldn’t have known them we hadn’t been in the musical together. I wouldn’t have made the friends I have made. The cast is 30 people, so you get 30 new friends. You form study groups during the show and after the show. I feel like the bonds last even after the show is over.”

The hours put in by students for rehearsals are numerous, says Bobby, headed to Samford University in the fall to pursue a 5-year MBA, but he advises students – and their parents – to give musicals a try.

“This year, we have mostly freshmen and sophomores, which is different from previous years. As upper classmen, we made it a priority to recruit younger students. They can do it. I’ve made it work. I’m in BC Calculus, which is probably the hardest class at this school, I’m in AP Biology, I’m in AP English with Mr. Wood, I’m in choir, I’m a varsity tennis player. Actually, my grades have gone up because I have these people to help me.”

Looking back, he says he never could have imagined a life onstage.

“When I was little, predicting what would happen, I would have thought I would be in the auditorium, watching the show, wishing I could do that. Honestly, I was so shy. I would hide behind my mom’s leg. I have progressed so much. It’s kind of a miracle. When I sing, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ it seems like two different people.”

Mary Poppins will be performed in the LHHS auditorium Jan. 26-28 at 7 p.m. and at 2 p.m. Jan. 29. Tickets are $16 for adults and $6 for students and are available at the door.

Spoiler alert: True to the story line, Mary Poppins and other characters will, indeed, fly in this production, and LHHS Theater has brought in Flying by Foy to make it happen. If you’d like to donate to help defray these or other costs, see the LHHS Theater GoFundMe page here. All sets, costumes, lighting, sound and orchestra duties are handled by students. Break leg, guys!

Natalie Regan plays Mary Poppins and Bobby Mahurin plays Bert the Chimneysweep