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Julie Andrews!

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In honor of Julie Andrews "co-directing" (with the formidable Frank Galati at her side) a "new" production of My Fair Lady in Australia, which recreates the original sets (Oliver Smith) and costumes (Cecil Beaton) , we're saluting Dame Julie this week.

Unlike many of my favorite great stars, I never got a chance to discover Julie Andrews. She was simply presented to me as such.

I never got the chance to ask: "Who's that woman?" because everyone knew who she was and everyone immediately loved her. That's because apart from everything else everyone in America, it seemed, owned the original cast recording of My Fair Lady. I don't believe I actually saw her until the telecast of Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall and I'll be honest here, given my age at the time, I probably paid more attention to Ms. Burnett's genius clowning then Ms. Andrews.

Yet I knew she was a great star; after all her name was almost as wide as the cast album itself on the My Fair Lady recording. That had to mean something.

Like so many other people of my generation, though, Mary Poppins is what defines Julie Andrews for me. Everything she has done since then (good or bad) has been a sort of:

"Mary Poppins as..:"

- a concerned assistant to a nuclear physicist in Torn Curtain
- a driver on a British Army Base in The Americanization of Emily
- a German Spy/British Music Hall entertainer in Darling Lili
- the perfect Governess and Best Friend in (of course) The Sound of Music

That's because the first time I "got" her she was playing someone truly magical, caring, funny and understanding; someone who, as a kid growing up in Ohio in the midst of a very ugly parental divorce, I needed.

The consequence of this is that I have no critical facility whatsoever when it comes to Ms. Andrews. None. I love her. She can do no wrong. Even when she does wrong. Little Miss Marker anyone? She can do NO wrong. Capisce?

However we're here to talk about BwayTunes, aren't we? The hard part about that is for once I think anyone reading this knows Dame Julie's basic ouvre as well as I do.

So here's a 19 song playlist which is titled "Why I Love Julie Andrews…."

My Fair Lady

So the first track is an instrumental, but it's the Overture and frankly any excuse to hear this magnificent piece of music should be seized and savored. The rest of the tracks from this dazzling show are self-explanatory. And let's be honest, there are few more gloriously sung musical phrases in all of the musical theatre than the final "I could have danced, danced, danced all night!"

1. Overture
2. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly"
3. "The Rain in Spain"
4. "I Could Have Danced All Night"
5. "Show Me"

Camelot

I came to this show late, and while I love the score the show is, for me, really about Arthur and Lancelot.  Call my therapist for more insight into that. When I was growing up it was their tracks that I was most interested in. Sorry Jules.

Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall

There are many gems on this recording of their historic television special but unsurprisingly the highlight is, for me, the "History of the Musical Theatre" medley which careens seamlessly from comedy to romance to farce to passion and ends with a surprisingly moving "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love."

Mary Poppins

There has rarely been a more perfect piece of fusion of a performer, a character and music than Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins. Was it what PL Travers wanted? Well as we learned from Emma Thompson a couple of years ago, no it wasn't. But sorry, sometimes authors don't know what they've created. I will however say that no matter how many times I've seen the film and listened to the recording—and I happily acknowledge that it's also a beautiful song—I still get bored by Feed The Birds.

6. "A Spoonful of Sugar"
7. "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocous"

The Sound of Music

'nuff said.

8. "The Sound of Music"
9. "I Have Confidence"
10. "My Favorite Things"
11. "Do-Re-Mi"

Star!

We all wanted Star! to be a great movie. The biography of the one and only Gertrude Lawrence would have seemed to have been the perfect vehicle for Julie Andrews. First there was the double-truck ad in the Sunday Times depicting a drawing of the World Premiere of the film in a reserved-seat engagement at the Rivoli Theatre in New York (where the film of The Sound of Music played for 22 months) but then the movie, despite being very classy, proved to be surprisingly boring. And yet, in this one number there was a sense of sheer musical theatre magic. Wonderfully choreographed by Michael Kidd, "The Saga of Jenny" seemed to have captured what "star quality" is all about.

12. "The Saga of Jenny"

Thoroughly Modern Millie

I adored this movie when it first came out and I played the soundtrack to death (mine, if my step-mother had had her way.) The film itself hasn't really aged well but the musical sequences (staged by Joe Layton) have, for me, survived the test of time.

13. "Thoroughly Modern Millie"
14. "Jimmy"
15. "Jewish Wedding Song"

Darling Lili

Here was a film that simply didn't work. I've tried to like it any number of times over the years but I never could figure out what it was supposed to be. And Paramount Pictures couldn't either given how many times they changed the ad campaign. However, one thing was clear - the film opened with a beautiful Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer ballad, "Whistling in the Dark" and it deserves a larger audience.

16. "Whistling in the Dark"

Victor/Victoria

A truly wonderful movie. Julie was perfect. James Garner a brilliant foil for her, and the best star turn of all was the master-class-of-a-performer known as Robert Preston. Henry Mancini and Leslie Briccuse's score is a delight, and there are three musical sequences in the film that deliver a perfect mixture of both a cinematic and theatrical sensibility. The elegant duet with Mr. Preston and Julie, "You and Me," the artfully restrained and eloquent rendering of Julie singing "Crazy World," and of course "Le Jazz Hot" with her breathtaking vocal glide up the musical scale to the stratosphere .

17. "You and Me"
18. "Crazy World"
19. "Le Jazz Hot"

While she continued to make recordings and stage appearances in the many years following the film of Victor/Victoria I'm going to stop my playlist here on a literal high note.

I was lucky enough to work with her once; on the recording of the Stephen Sondheim revue Putting it Together and all I can tell you is that she knows who she is and what she means to all of us and she doesn't disappoint us. I am in awe of her.

Her talent. Her career. Her way of being. It can't be easy being "Julie Andrews" and yet she has managed to be that for a very long career that gathers more and more devotees with each succeeding generation. I envy those folks in Australia who are working with her on My Fair Lady, a beautiful part of musical theatre history is being imparted to those artists down there. More than seeing the show, I'd kill to be there for the rehearsals!


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