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In some supercalifragilisticexpialidocious news, Dame Julie Andrews, one of the most popular stage and screen performers of all time, makes her long overdue Australian debut in Brisbane followed by appearances in Perth, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne this month. Fans hoping for the odd do-re-mi, however, might be a little disappointed as Andrews, 77, has made it clear that she won’t be doing any live singing. Instead, An Evening with Julie Andrews, promises a whistle stop tour through her life and career.
Andrews, who made her London stage debut at the age of 12, will offer reminiscences about her career defining roles in My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Victor/Victoria and The Princess Diaries. That should offer enough personal memories and insights to keep most people entertained. And in what should be a double spoonful of sugar, the event is to be hosted by Nicholas Hammond, the US born, Australian actor who played her stepson, Friedrich von Trapp, in The Sound of Music.
Hammond, who decided to become an actor after seeing Julie Andrews on stage at the Drury Lane theatre in London in her final performance of My Fair Lady, has been in love with show business and Julie ever since. While speaking recently to the wives of soldiers serving in Afghanistan, he was asked what might be the secret of success behind The Sound of Music. His answer is always the same: “in two words, Julie Andrews.”
Speaking candidly about the singing, Andrews admits that she has never recovered from the botched attempt to remove nodules from her vocal chords back in 1997. Her famous, four-octave soprano was then reduced to a fragile alto – she was quoted at the time as saying “I can sing the hell out of Old Man River.” Her 2010 UK apperances included a group of singers to do most of the vocal legwork but fans who had hoped for more from the actual star herself felt a little let down. Andrews has decided she won’t be climbing that particular mountain on her Australian tour, offering as compensation a lot of filmed singing clips and some in depth conversation.
Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut in The Boy Friend back in 1954 with subsequent triumphs in My Fair Lady (earning a Tony nomination at the age of 21) and Camelot. Having conquered Broadway, Andrews went on to make the series of iconic films that made her a household name. Most recently she has become a bestselling author, joining forces with her daughter, to create a series of children’s books.
Anyone worried about a silent Julie Andrews shouldn’t worry. Beneath the semi-regal presentational style lurks a wealth of professional experience and some of the best annecdotes in the business. As The Guardian noted after her 2010 show in London’s gigantic O2 arena, “Her physical presence triggered palpable waves of affection and nostalgia, and her legendary status pretty well filled the colossal space on its own”. That should be enough to make the medicine go down.