As a young child, Maura Hogan was somewhat obsessed with Mary Poppins, watching the movie over and over the way kids today watch Frozen or The Avengers. “I used to watch it all the time. I knew the whole movie and could recite it backwards and forwards,” she says. “It was a key part of my childhood and I just loved the movie so much.”
Hogan admits that another reason she was so taken with the story was that her dad reminded her of Dick Van Dyke. “I was confused and thought it was my dad,” she says. “It just holds so many incredible memories for me.”
That’s why when an opportunity to play the beloved Disney nanny came up at Toby’s Dinner Theater, faster than you can say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” she jumped at the chance.
“It’s such an iconic role and such a dream character, I absolutely wanted to play this part,” she says. “I had worked at Toby’s before—Legally Blonde and a few other shows—and I got an email to see if I would be interested in auditioning for Mary. I did one audition, then another and when I got the call it was so exciting.”
The acting bug hit her early in life and by the age of 7, she was doing shows in Baltimore’s Pumpkin Theatre.
“My parents saw a flair for my being dramatic and making people laugh—such as throwing myself down the stairs to make my brothers laugh—I was constantly trying to entertain,” Hogan says. “I did any play I could and every after-school program you could think of. Any opportunity to be in front of people I took. It was the best feeling in the world.”
She graduated from Catholic University in 2013 with a bachelor’s in music, even though before her schooling she didn’t even know how to read music.
“I didn’t know a half note from a whole note, I just knew I could sing and knew all the words to all the cast albums,” she says. “I was very happy to go and had a great time in DC.”
Hogan hasn’t been seen much in the area of late as she was performing the past year on a German cruise ship, singing shows in both English and German for the German passengers.
“It was such an incredible learning experience. I was the only American on the ship and I feel I grew so much and got to see so much of the world,” she says. “I had barely been out of the country but all of a sudden I was in Oslo and Portugal and Spain.”
Stepping into the “very sensible” shoes of Mary Poppins, there were several things that posed a challenge for the actress.
“The thing I struggled with most is that I’m very animated with my arms and my feet and one of the things I had to work on was becoming more poised and thoughtful with my movement,” she says. “Everyone else is on Mary Poppins’ time—she is running the world and is calm, cool and collected. It’s totally different from anything I have ever done before.”
And although she had done an English accent in high school and in acting class, this is the first time she was performing professionally with one.
“I have a couple of phrases that I use to get ready to go. I have a British friend who was always saying, ‘I was mad as a box of frogs,’ so that’s one of the phrases I use to practice,” Hogan says. “I feel I have it down pretty well now.”
One of the joys of the job, she says, is getting to work with the two incredible children who play Jane and Michael (Caroline Otchet and Gavin Willard), as Mary Poppins takes them on magical and memorable adventures.
“They are in almost every scene and they work incredibly hard, I am so impressed by them,” she says. “It’s hard work for these kids to memorize what they need to, and go to school, and have extra activities. I just love working with them and we’re all having so much fun.”
Closes February 1, 2015
Toby’s Dinner Theatre – Columbia
5900 Synmphony Woods Road Columbia
Tickets: $55 – $67 includes dinner
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
The musical does make some changes from the movie, and Hogan doesn’t want to give too much of the script away, but does reveal there’s a new character of a mean-spirited nanny (“played impeccably by Heather Beck” she says), some new tunes and of course, Mary Poppins will be flying in the air with umbrella in tow.
“The real heart of it is there,” she says. “All in all, it’s the same message of be with your kids and anything you can imagine is possible.”
Even though she’s playing the role of one of her childhood heroes, Hogan says that none of the mystique or childhood innocence has disappeared and that she’s grown an even greater appreciation for Mary Poppins.
“I was always looking at the movie through the eye of the kids and I saw Mary Poppins as this mysterious entity; this magical person and I didn’t get her,” she says. “Now I have a handle on who she is and it almost makes it even more magical.”