Mary Poppins is everyone’s favourite magical nanny, but she hasn’t been Down Under for quite some time. Now, Australian actor Stefanie Jones – a practically perfect thespian, dancer and singer in her own right – is bringing the world’s most air-born nanny to Sydney soil for a Mary Poppins production of truly epic proportions. Stefanie chats with us on how it feels to be stepping into Mary’s shiny shoes, and what excites her the most about this role of a lifetime.
How did you react when you found out that you got the role?
Oh my gosh, you know, obviously, I was elated. But there was a big feeling of relief as well, because it had been such a long audition process and Covid had slowed things down, for everyone, unfortunately. So it was stretched out many, many months longer than it should have been. So when I finally got that phone call, it was relief and excitement, and I definitely popped a bottle of Champagne.
Julie Andrews is strongly associated with this role from the film. How did you feel stepping into it, and what do you do to prepare for that?
Oh gosh, you know, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some pressure attached to it, because Julie's performance is so iconic. And that's big shoes to fill in the sense that I wouldn't even attempt to try and fill her amazing shoes. But you know, the gift of this production has been that the producers are so encouraging of us, making it our own and putting our own sort of flair on each role. So I'm definitely definitely taking parts from Julie and other performers who have played the role because people do want to see that, it's nostalgic for them. But then also giving it my own twist as well.
What are your earliest and fondest memories of Mary Poppins? What does she mean to you?
I think my memories go way back, probably till to when I was about six or seven, watching the film. And the movie was definitely on repeat in our household. And I've known the songs forever, since I was a little kid. So that was the one thing I didn't really have to learn when I started rehearsals, was learning lyrics, because I did know them very intimately.
What is your favourite song to perform in the production?
Oh, that's a good one. Look, 'Feed the Birds' is very special, especially performing alongside Nancye Hayes, just an iconic Australian performer. So to share the stage with her in this capacity is really special. And I think 'Feed the Birds' is unique in that it's sort of a moment of stillness as well, in our whole production. So that moment brings me a lot of joy. But there are just honestly too many to choose from.
When it comes to Sydney, and what a production like this means for Sydney, what are you most excited for it bringing to the city?
I think I'm most excited to introduce this show to a new generation. There's so many kids today who probably haven't even seen the film, and they certainly weren't alive when the musical was last in Australia. So yeah, I think it'd be really special to introduce it to a new generation. And for parents and grandparents alike, or anyone actually to come along and revisit their own memories of it. It's just such a special piece for anyone, no matter what your age.
What is it about this production that sets it aside from any others that have gone before?
I think it's probably just a really opportune time for this show to be here, given what we've all gone through the last few years and especially what the arts sector has gone through. I think this show offers the perfect amount of escapism, but also really tugs at the heartstrings where we need it most right now.
And now, for my final question: what would be in your magic carpet bag if you had one?
*Gasps* What would be in my magic carpet bag? Chocolate. Probably some music and podcasts, and a big cup of really hot tea. And at the moment, because the weather’s turned, a nice blanket or something *laughs*.
You can watch Stefanie Jones transform into Mary at the Sydney Lyric Theatre, from now until July 17. You can buy tickets to see the magic for yourself, right here.