Margaret Kerry delivers the goods.
In her hour-long show, “Tinker Bell meets Andy Griffith,” the show-biz veteran tells stories of her Hollywood career, dishes celebrity gossip, gives dialect demonstrations, does cartoon voices, executes several pantomimes, reads an excerpt from J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan” doing all the voices and last, but certainly not least, tap dances “The Andy Griffith Show” theme song.
The only thing she does not do is sing. Her singing ambitions were stopped cold when she heard Darla Hood belt out a number that Kerry said would put Judy Garland to shame when the two appeared together in “Our Gang” comedies when Kerry was 4 years old. After hearing Hood sing, Kerry said “It was so incredible. I can’t do that. I’m not going to learn to sing.”
“And I didn’t,” she told Friday’s audience at the Andy Griffith Museum.
But she does everything else exceedingly well. Not the least of her talents is charming an audience, at which she excels. She makes a number of self-disparaging comments about her age, each funnier than the last, and then powers through like a freight train on the express track, taking no prisoners.
Kerry divided the show into two halves, with the first half about her work on “The Andy Griffith Show” and the second half about her work as Tinker Bell. Her son, Eric Norquist, played guitar and sang original song parodies during the interim while Kerry changed costumes.
In the first half, Kerry credits her appearances on “The Andy Griffith Show” to Ruth Birch, casting director for the show. “She believed in me,” said Kerry. The first season’s famous Christmas show was Kerry’s first appearance. She says, “I didn’t have much to do in that one. But I was adorable.”
She says of her other appearance, in “Andy Forecloses, “I had quite a bit to do in that one.”
After completing her work on the show, Kerry was saying her goodbyes and went to Bob Sweeney, who directed the first three seasons, and said to him, “I think you’re the funniest man I’ve ever seen.”
Unknown to her, Andy Griffith was standing right behind her. When she turned around, he was grinning ear to ear.
Kerry uses her tap dance as a first act finale, with a quip that she would need a little rest before going on.
Returning after the musical interlude and a video highlighting her work at Disney for “Peter Pan,” Kerry is resplendent in sequins and glitter.
Kerry’s adventure with Tinker Bell began when her agent called her and said “Get on over to Disney. They want you to play a three-and-a-half-inch sprite that doesn’t talk.” Kerry said all she heard was “Disney.”
For her audition with Marc Davis, one of the “Nine Old Men” of Disney, Kerry knew she would need a way to show him she could do the job. So she developed a pantomime of a young boy waking up hungry and attempting to make his own breakfast. She selected music to accompany her material and showed up at Davis’ office with a portable record player and a 45 rpm record. She carefully explained to her audience what a 45 was before recreating the pantomime for them.
At the end of the audition process, Davis asked Kerry is she would be able to come to work on Tuesday. Not used to such politeness from employers, she thought he was messing with her. Then he asked her what time she would like to come and she was sure of it.
As she tells her audience, in those days, the studios told you when to show up and it was always early. So she told Davis that 10 o’clock would be fine. And it was.
As Kerry was developing the character, she asked Davis what he wanted, giving him a number of options complete with appropriate voices. “Do you want her ditzy like Betty Boop,” etc.
Davis said, “We want her to be you.”
Kerry replied, “Gosh darn. I think I can do that.”
She played Tinker Bell as a naive waif, innocent of the ways of the world. a perpetual child always looking for a new adventure. She thinks that is the key to Tinker Bell’s continuing popularity. And Tink’s popularity does continue. Kerry said that Disney sells more Tinker Bell merchandise than any other of their characters.
As to Tinker Bell’s jealousy of Wendy, Kerry says, It’s not because of love. Tinker Bell wants to be Peter’s groupie. She wants to go on adventures with him.
Years later when dining with Marc Davis and his wife before he died, Kerry asked Davis if he had ever noticed that Tinker Bell is the only Disney character to be seen onscreen in their underwear.
He replied, “Did you notice that they are always clean?” And then he told her, “You still are Tinker Bell.”
She said, “That’s the nicest thing you ever said to me. Except, can you come to work on Tuesday?”
She ends her show by leading her audience in a chant of “Faith and trust and pixie dust.”
Pixie dust in Mayberry. The combination is perfection.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.