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"I feel I still would like to contribute a great deal," she says. "There's a lot of life in the old girl yet."

Julie Andrews

Saturday Evening Post
Earl L. Conn
May 1996

Julie Andrews: Kicking Up Her Heels

After a 30-year hiatus, she's savoring her "big, new adventure" on Broadway. Julie Andrews is explaining what's different about singing.

Singing is such a mysterious, wonderful thing. It's nothing you can see. It's not like you can take a class with other people. Even Julie Andrewsthe consummate dancers can look in a mirror and improve the line of what they do singing is really kind of opening up your insides and letting it out."

Of course, the word isn't "dancers" as Americans pronounce it. When Julie Andrews says the word, it still has that British sound of something like "dawncers."

Julie is responding to my question about a writer who said when Julie sings, "her sweet sad soul comes out and rummages around in yours."

"What does he mean by that? I suppose he means there's a melancholy in a lot of us, and maybe he identified with that in some way. I really don't know," she says, then adds, "I think when you get to my age, you've certainly been through all sorts of experiences, and I guess you translate. I get moved when I hear singers who do that, and I hope very much that I have [arrived] or will arrive at the same thing."

There's not much question about arriving.

Julie Andrews' career began-impossible as it is to believe-almost 50 years ago in 1947 when 12-year-old Julie Wells (she later adopted the name of her stepfather, Ted Andrews) appeared in her London stage debut at the Hippodrome in the Starlight Roof revue. Earlier it eight, she already had developed a full larynx with a four-octave voice.

"For some reason, I had this freakish voice. I was sort of a child prodigy who had a really strong voice and a. very large vocal range," Julie remembers.

By the time she was 19, she already had crossed the Atlantic and was on Broadway, starring in The Boy Friend. Two years later came My Fair Lady and her role as Eliza Doolittle with Rex Harrison, for which she won the New York Drama Critics Award as best actress in a musical. Immediately following was Camelot, with Julie as Guinevere opposite Richard Burton. Following these New York hits, Julie was summoned to Hollywood by Walt Disney for Mary Poppins. For this first screen role, Julie received the 1964 Oscar as best actress and the Golden Globe Award. An Oscar nomination and another Golden Globe Award for her role as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music came in 1965. Beyond the theater, the Los Angeles Times in 1965 named her Woman of the Year. By then she was 30 and already in the theater for 18 years.

Was it talent or getting the breaks? Much of her success she attributes to the breaks.
"But there's a lot of hard work. I've been singing forever in theater and film-the arts have been my whole life. I'm very grateful for the talent and, thank God, the work was there. There's an awful lot of talent, particularly here on Broadway, well, everywhere-and a great deal has to do with the breaks you get."

Julie Andrews "Here on Broadway" is a reference to her current work, Victor/Victoria. In 1982, she collaborated with husband Blake Edwards in the film about a down-on-her-luck 1930s English soprano in Paris who becomes a sensation by impersonating a man who impersonates women. Now it's a musical on Broadway.

It's another in a series of collaborations between Julie and Blake Edwards, who married in 1969 shortly after work on the film Darling Lili, their first film together.

By this time, both already had been through a marriage and had children. He was 13 years her senior and commonly was known in Hollywood by the descriptive nickname "Blackie," because of his moods and contempt for Hollywood (despite his enormous success with the Pink Panther movies and such early films as Breakfast at Tiffany's).

Because you try harder and are more realistic with a second marriage, they made only one decision, Julie clearly remembers.

"We vowed when we married that this we would take a day at a time not have any fantasies that sort of precluded the realities. I think it's been a very good idea. You don't try to see the long term as much when you deal with the everyday. It probably bears fruit because you concentrate on the moment," Julie says.

Julie Andrews"I guess the other side of it is that two people have to want to do it. It's the biggest job one can do. But we're grateful. It's quite a surprise for both of us. We made that one vow-and suddenly it's 25 years later!" But it's been even more than that - 30 years-since Julie has been on Broadway. Victor/Victoria opened days after her 60th birthday last October 1. It's a physically demanding role.

Philip Weiss, writing last autumn, says that eight performances a week of Victor/Victoria is a "brutal workout." But Julie says she has developed a series of exercises over the years that keep her in shape.

"I'm not a fanatic about it. I do as much as is necessary but only as much as is necessary, because it occupies a certain portion of my day. I do stretch and then my exercises. It's part a little ballet bar, a little yoga, and a lot of stretching because my back is not the strongest part of my body, and I have to be very careful. Then, of course, I do a singing practice every day. Really, the whole day is about getting ready for the show." It wasn't sufficient in January when she missed several performances.

"I had a bad flu with bronchitis and God knows what," Julie says. The New York Times noted that attendance at the Marquis Theatre dropped to 61 percent capacity while she was ill. Receipts were also down by more than $200,000 from the usual $800,000. In March she thought she had a recurrence of flu. Instead she ended up in the hospital for laporasope surgery for removal of her gallbladder. This time she missed just under two weeks' performances. Again, ticket sales plummeted.

The role also causes her to appear in men's clothing, including white tie and tails. One reviewer called her "the sexiest woman in tails since Dietrich."

Of course, Julie has gotten great press notices for years, and today is no exception. Some current accolades: "When she sings, she's magic." "Lovely." "To see her is to love her." "Looks terrific." "Glows with beauty and class." "Purity of voice."

Clearly, she likes what she's doing and believes the show has come at an ideal time for her after a long hiatus.

"And why not? It seemed time for a big, new adventure and I was happy to embrace it," she says.
This "big, new adventure" followed a 20-year period when Julie's priority was raising her family, mostly at their Switzerland home. Throughout those years, there were still TV shows, films, recordings, and world appearances.

Julie refuses to buy the argument that a star can be typecast in a critically acclaimed role and not be accepted by her fans when playing a different part.

Why? Julie has two answers.

"First, I think that possibly the success of each enterprise has a great deal to do with it. If Victor/Victoria had not been a successful film, I probably wouldn't be identified with it. The best analogy I can give would be if you think of Clark Gable, you obviously think of Gone with the Wind. It was huge, but he had this great body of work. But I'm happy in that Victor/Victoria, obviously, was successful and bold enough to give me that identity, as well as Poppins and Maria.

"Second, I think that to some degree, obviously, one is identified with earlier roles if they were successful. But I'm an actress, and I'm delighted to get my teeth into anything that's fresh. So I'm really not those people, in reality. Obviously, a part of me is, Why?

Julie once said that she simply did early roles because of her theatrical background, then performed to get away from life and herself, but today embraces each performance.

"These days it's true. I do work for a very different reason. In younger years, the breaks came, and one took whatever one could because one needed to work. But these days I have the luxury of choosing-mostly the luxury of choosing, not always-but I really do so enjoy it for myself and I so enjoy the giving. It's quite a wonderful feeling."

Performing on stage isn't all that Julie is up to these days. Her Broadway music album series with Philips is one source of enthusiasm for the future. The first in the series, Julie Andrews-Broadway: The Music of Richard Rodgers, won a Grammy Award nomination for best traditional pop vocal.

"I love the music of Richard Rodgers; in fact, it is exquisite. But there's so much music out there that I adore. I'm thrilled with the Grammy nomination because I'm very proud of the album. I love recording the privacy of doing it and then getting it right. You cannot imagine the pleasure of singing with a very, very big orchestra.

Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria"It's the beginning of a series of albums. Philips has been very generous and has asked me to try to do a lot of definitive Broadway music. So I've already got the second album in the bank, so to speak, and it will be coming out later this year. It's The Words of Alan Jay Lerner, which includes all the people he ever worked with, such as Kurt Weill, Frederick Loewe, and Leonard Bernstein."

Then there is her third children's book, half finished now for the last four years. Writing under her married name, Julie Edwards, Mandy was published in 1971 and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles in 1974, published by Harper & Row. Both were stories told to her children.

Speaking of writing, is there also an autobiography in the works?

"I am thinking about it more and more because I think my children and their children might be interested in it. So I'd like to get something down one of these days. It's not started, but I've certainly begun to set aside special photographs and things like that. Julie Andrews in Victor VictoriaIn other words, I'm thinking about it."

And there are her charities. Named in 1992 as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women, she refers to herself as a "very proud ambassador for this wonderful organization." But two California charities have her dedication as well right now.

"One is the Foundation for Hereditary Disease. It's a phenomenal group of scientists who are striving to solve the mysteries of, particularly, Huntington's chorea. It's the premature aging that hits in midlife and is a terrible thing."

"The other is an international relief fund that my husband and I helped to get started, although we are not its founders. It's called Operation U.S.A. They literally are a small but very effective group. My expression is, `They get in where the big ships can't.' They've done an enormous amount of work all over the world."

When asked what was her greatest fear, what followed was the longest pause of the interview. "It's that awful cliche: it's fear itself. One's constantly dealing with it in every sense: I mean, going on stage, or doing something in life that is difficult or unusual."

Only Julie herself knows what direction her future will take, but the star is definitely in high gear and ready to tackle more challenges.

"I feel I still would like to contribute a great deal," she says. "There's a lot of life in the old girl yet."



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