Call Answered: Sarah-Louise Young "Julie Madly Deeply" at 59E59 Theaters
When you read about a show that is paying tribute to one of the world’s most renowned and cherished stars it makes you want to find out more. That is exactly what happened when I read about Sarah-Louise Young’s show Julie Madly Deeply, a love letter to showbiz legend Julie Andrews.
Julie Madly Deeply weaves songs from musicals including Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and My Fair Lady with stories and anecdotes about Andrews’ life told from the perspective of her biggest fan.
Julie Madly Deeply will play at 59E59 Theaters from June 11-30. Click here for tickets!
1. This June your show, Julie Madly Deeply, a love letter to showbiz legend Julie Andrews, will be making it's US premiere. What is it about Julie Andrews that made you want to write a whole show about her? I grew up loving musicals and when I was a little girl, like many children, I thought Julie Andrews really was Mary Poppins and Maria Von Trapp all rolled into one. When I was seven years old I wrote to her asking her to come and visit and I even made an outfit our of curtains in case she turned up. You'll have to see the show to find out if she did.
When my Australian producer friend and I first talked about the idea for the show we actually didn't think it was possible. We knew it wouldn't be right to try to impersonate her - her voice was just too special - and we knew we had a responsibility to her legions of fans to make something truthful, loving and fun.
The fans were the key. For many people she is inextricably woven into the fabric of their childhoods and when we present the show, that's the magic people bring with them into the theatre. Our shared memories and love for her work is what makes the piece so special to perform and I hope watch. We're all in it together.
When I learned later in life about the loss of her beautiful singing voice, I wanted to make a show which celebrated the gifts she has given us and continues to give us: the fact that she has found a new voice as a children's author and continues to perform and present shows despite not being able to sing shows how very loved she is.
2. How long did it take you to create this show, from idea to inception? I did nine months of research: watching every film she had ever made, all the DVD commentaries, searching rare footage and videos, radio interviews and reading her auto-biography and the brilliant biography by Richard Stirling who was very supportive of the process.
I was already very familiar with her most famous films but I had no idea for example, that she had worked with Hitchcock or done films like Hawaii and Star. It was a feast for my senses and a lot of hard work. Next I began assembling the music for the show with my long time collaborator Michael Roulston. There were far too many songs to include in full in even a long show but we wanted to include as many as possible. The final piece of the jigsaw and the real reason the show has been such a huge success was finding our amazing director Russell Lucas. He took the skeleton script which we now lovingly refer to as “Wikipedia Live” and turned it into an interactive cabaret with crafted storytelling and heart. So all in all about a year from first concept to completion - though obviously not full time. I was performing in other productions as well.
3. What are you looking forward to most about sharing this show with US audiences? Bringing the show to New York was always the dream for the production. Dame Julie may be iconically British but it is in America that she really blossomed. From coming to the Great White Way at the age of nineteen to do Cinderella to being catapulted into stardom as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, America adopted her.
Of course she did return to England many times and played Eliza in the West End, but Hollywood became home and she fell in love with an American (Blake Edwards) and raised her family there. One of the great joys of researching the show was discovering her wonderful partnership with Carol Burnett. I wish I had time to include more of their duets in the show! We were very well received in Canada and I feel that an American audience, especially a cabaret and theatre savvy New York audience will really embrace the concept and bring a lot of joy into the room. At the start of the night I ask the audience if anyone has seen her perform live and I am expecting a lot of people to say yes!
4. For this premiere, did you change any part of the show to customize it more for an American audience? One of the things I love about cabaret is how interactive it can be. Each audience brings their own experiences and stories with them which we can weave into the show. So although I haven’t planned any specific changes for an American audience I’m looking forward to discovering how the piece resonates with them and what I may learn about Dame Julie from them.
In Canada certain things landed differently. Julie’s step father was Canadian for example so we ended up including a few Canada specific jokes.
5. Which song did you know absolutely, without question, had to be in the show? We always knew “The Hills Are Alive” had to be in it and we were utterly spoilt for choice with options. We have managed to get songs in from The Sound Of Music, Mary Poppins, Darling Lili, Star, Victor/Victoria, The Boyfriend, Cinderella, Camelot and even a number which was cut from My Fair Lady in the out of town try-outs which I heard Julie Andrews on a chat show saying was one of her favorite songs.
The show started life in a 65 minute version for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival but when we went to the West End we had to turn it into a two act version. This meant we could add some of the songs we had really struggled with leaving out. The one I was most excited about was “Could I Leave You?” from Follies which Julie sang Off-Broadway in a Sondheim revue called Putting It Together. She did it just before her big Broadway comeback with Victor/Victoria.
6. What should audiences know about this show before attending? It's a cabaret which involves the audience, invites their stories and voices and celebrates the unique brilliance of Dame Julie Andrews. Audiences come away laughing and crying and I hope we take them on a real journey into their own memories. The biggest compliment people pay me when they message me after the show is to say they have gone home and listened to her songs or re-watched an old film.
7. If Julie Andrews herself came to see this show, what do you think her reaction would be? I would absolutely LOVE it if she came to see us! I did invite her but she is a bit busy, although close friends of hers have come and been really lovely about it so you never know!
I would honestly hope that she would see it for what it is which is an utterly loving and life affirming love letter to her made with respect, admiration and skill.
8. If you could remake any Julie Andrews movie and star alongside her, as if you were sharing the role, which film would you want to star in with her? Star for sure. It's a Gertrude Lawrence biopic and perfect casting for her. If I got to do Burlington Bertie with her that would be a joy. Or leap about to The Saga Of Jenny (for which she did all her own acrobatics so I'd need to get training!)
9. In Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins describes herself as practically perfect in every way. What do you think makes Julie Andrews practically perfect in every way? She is flawless. When you look at her training from such a young age and the discipline and practice she put in - she really worked hard. Add to that an authentic charm and mischievous twinkle and you have everything you want from a star. Christopher Plummer said that what you saw on the screen really was her - maybe that's it - maybe she made us all feel like we got to know the real her just a little bit.
10. InThe Sound of Music Maria was looking for the confidence to be the governess. When has there been a time you had to sing "I Have Confidence" before doing something? Every time we do the show we dedicate it to someone new. It helps us focus on the audience rather than our own nerves but I have definitely sung a bit of that song to myself from time to time and shall probably be humming it on the plane over to New York!
More on Sarah-Louise:
Sarah-Louise Young is an actress, writer, director and internationally renowned cabaret performer. Winner of The UK Stage Award for acting, named one of Time Out London’s Top 10 Cabaret Acts and voted Best Musical Variety Act in the London Cabaret Awards, she has also guested with comedy and musical performers Fascinating Aïda and La Soirée and is a member of Olivier award-winning improvised musical group, The Showstoppers.
She has appeared in the West End, London, on BBC Radio 4 and toured internationally, including to the prestigious Adelaide Cabaret Festival and has played numerous parts in television, theatre and short films. She is one half of writing and performing duo, Roulston & Young with whom she has created nine productions over the past eleven years.