Graham Verchere, Sara-Jeanne Hosie, and Kassia Danielle Malmquist in the 2013 production of Mary Poppins. Photo by David Cooper
Graham Verchere, Sara-Jeanne Hosie, and Kassia Danielle Malmquist in the 2013 production of Mary Poppins. Photo by David Cooper

Once again spending the holidays in Vancouver, Sara-Jeanne Hosie returns to the Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre stage as the original Supernanny, Mary Poppins.  But more than simply spending the season helping the Banks family each night, it is also a homecoming of sorts for her as well.

[pullquote]“I love doing a show at Christmas that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. White Christmas did just that, and now I get to continue with Mary Poppins.” – actor Sara-Jeanne Hosie[/pullquote]“I love coming back to Vancouver for the holidays. I have family here so it is always great to be able to spend time with them.  Besides, I also get away from the frigid eastern winters,” she laughs.

Having spent four years on the same stage as Betty in White Christmas before taking on the title role of the practically perfect Mary Poppins in the last two, Hosie says while the transition was a refreshing change, it also feeds her appetite for this type of show.

“I love doing a show at Christmas that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy,” says Hosie.  “White Christmas did just that, and now I get to continue with Mary Poppins.”

And while the two shows are very different, Hosie did find some similarity between Betty and Mary.  “They certainly aren’t the same vocally at all and are very different in their speech and voice, but I think Betty had the same underlying dry humour that Mary Poppins does.”

While audiences will instantly recognize the story and many of the songs from the 1964 Disney film, this musical stage adaptation is based more closely on the P.L. Travers books, a series of eight written over five decades, which are darker in tone compared to its movie counterpart.

“The Disney movie was full of bright pinks and oranges and this version has a beautiful wash of grey to it,” says Hosie. “The movie was definitely ‘Disney-fied’ and I love it, but this is the story of Mr Banks and the fact that Mary comes to the house for him.  He is the one that needs the biggest transition for the sake of the children.”

If another Disney movie, Saving Mr Banks, is to be believed, there is probably good reason for this darker hue, as it is closer to Travers’ version of the story than what the Disney filmmakers finally captured on celluloid.  Perhaps surprisingly, it is also a movie that Hosie has not yet seen.

“I think I’m going to watch it Christmas Day,” she laughs again.  “It came right out at the tail end of the run last year and I had lived in the Poppins world so much at that time that I needed a break.”

Like the character she plays, Sara-Jeanne Hosie is practically perfect in every way.
Like the character she plays, Sara-Jeanne Hosie is practically perfect in every way too. Photo by David Cooper.

But while Hosie has yet to see Saving Mr Banks, she does have fond memories watching Julie Andrews playing Poppins in the film, although she admits it was never a role she had considered for herself.  That idea came from the Arts Club’s Artistic Director Bill Millerd.

“It was the first year of White Christmas and I was in the dressing room putting on my makeup when Bill walked past the door, and then he sort of backed up, pointed to me and said ‘you should play Mary Poppins’”, she recalls. Four years later Hosie found herself doing just that.

Now back at the Stanley Theatre for rehearsals before the show opens in December, Hosie is not only refreshing herself with the accent and songs, she is also back in what she calls “flight training”, preparing for her trip high above the audience each night.

“Yesterday was the first day back in flight gear for Scott [Scott Walters who plays Bert] and I, and we were just saying how much it feels like being on a rollercoaster.  It is such a rush, but it is such a favourite part of the show as I can hear all the kids whispering things like ‘she is right there’ or ‘look she’s flying’”, she says.

Of course the question on everyone’s mind, and the one we were not afraid to ask: is Hosie practically perfect in every way, just like her stage alter-ego?

“No, not even close,” she says laughing.  “I’ve never played a role that you have to say those words and there is a lot of pressure because I don’t want to drop a lamp or mess up any of the magic.”

But before we sign off so she can get back to her high-flying ways, Hosie has a change of mind.

“Wait a minute, there is the word ‘practically’ in that phrase …  so yeah, I guess I am practically perfect,” she says with another laugh.  “But just to be safe, maybe you should call my husband and ask him.”

Mary Poppins plays the Arts Club Stanley Industrial Alliance Theatre December 5 – January 5.  Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.