by Patricia Grandjean
Nov 4, 2012
06:57 PMBox Office
Q&A Exclusive: Julie Andrews
(page 1 of 3)
Julie Andrews has returned to Goodspeed Musicals to direct The Great American Mousical at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, a stage show based on the 2006 book by Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. It's Dame Andrews' second directorial effort—her first since The Boy Friend, which played the Goodspeed Opera House in 2005 before going on national tour—and thus, my first chance to interview her since our Connecticut Magazine cover story on her Boy Friend production in July 2005. (Amidst its creative team, the new show includes esteemed movie/stage set designer Tony Walton, Andrews' first husband and Hamilton's father.) In addition to talking about a number of things Mousical, we also touched on a couple of other recent subjects close to her heart (and her funny bone). As a bonus, I've attached her hilarious interview with Stephen Colbert from earlier this year, as well as the 13-year-old Andrews' performance of "God Save the King" for King George VI in 1948. Ah, the joys of YouTube.
How did the idea come about to turn Mousical into a stage show?
It's quite simple and rather amazing. Once the book was finished, purely as a gesture of fun, I sent advanced copies to Michael Price and Bob Alwine at Goodspeed, simply because they are both such passionate lovers of theater. This story is all about musicals and our love of the theater, and I thought they would enjoy it. It was just done as a gesture, and within something like 24 hours, Bob Alwine got back to me and said, "We think this would make the most amazing musical, and we'd love to help develop it."
Emma and I were quite stunned, because it was nothing that we'd thought about. I said, "Are you sure?" and yes, they were quite sure and wanted to get into it. It took a few years to get together and get the right creative team together—the book came out in 2006, and we've been working on the show for the past year-and-a-half, two years. It was such a joy, and it's turned into such an amazing piece. I really do have to thank the Goodspeed people for being such great godfathers, because they helped bring it to life.
How has the book been adapted . . .
It's a musical, truthfully, about musicals—and is, I think, very witty and funny. It's about life in the theater, and all its idiocies and its sweetness and love and collaboration. It's written for adults, because there are many, many levels on which you can enjoy this musical. But I think all ages will love it, much like Annie or Shrek.
I remember that at the end of the book, there was a list of theatrical terms that were explained, which I found charming, because it was educational for someone who was young and maybe not so well acquainted with theater, and even I learned a couple of things.
Hopefully, if you bring the youngsters with you, they'll enjoy it on one level and as I say, adults will certainly enjoy it on another. It's really a love story; the music is just wonderful. The collaboration we have with the lyricist and composer . . . I'm not sure if you have their names, do you?
I understand that Hunter Bell wrote the book . . .
Yes, and he's done a beautiful job of fleshing out the characters and bringing them to life for us. Couldn't be more pleased. He honored us, you know?
And he won a Tony for [title of show]. You also have Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, who did Dear Edwina . . .
Right, they wrote our lyrics and music, respectively. The songs are wonderful; they're toe-tapping and there are some beautiful ballads. It is really fun, and I'm thrilled with the entire team.
And of course, you've worked with Tony [Walton] many times as a set designer.
Oh, yes! He designed The Boy Friend when we did it at Goodspeed, as you know. We're great friends, have been all our lives. We might as well keep it in the family—the book was written by our daughter and me, and he did the designs for that, so we might as well keep it that way.
So, you assembled your team together with Michael and Bob of the Goodspeed?
Yes. Bob Alwine in particular was hugely influential in everything from the casting to the team themselves. They really were godfathers; they guided us beautifully.
I also wanted to mention that you're working with Christopher Gattelli, the choreographer of Broadway's Newsies . . .
Another Tony winner!
So this is a world-class operation.
[Laughs] From your lips to everyone's ears, I hope. We just had two huge rehearsals in New York City, and the whole cast got together for the first time. It was very successful, and we discovered that we really do have a strong show. It was a wonderful discovery for all of us.
Tell us who's in the cast.
Adelaide—we call her Aunt Beaver—who is the leading lady, is played by Emily Skinner. David Beach plays the professor who loves her; Paul Carlin plays the Shakespearian orator in the cast. There's just a whole bunch of wonderful people. We have a lovely young man called Noah Galvin, who plays the young intern who is the sort of glue who holds the whole piece together. It's seen through his eyes—he's our Pippin.