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Julie Madly Deeply

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - June 16, 2019

Sarah-Louise Young
Photo by Carol Rosegg

"Julie Andrews, Julie Andrews, I am not Julie Andrews," proclaims Sarah-Louise Young, the proudly self-effacing Julie Andrews fangirl and cabaret singer at the start of her show Julie Madly Deeply, opening today at 59E59 Theaters as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival.

This is not a case of false modesty. Oh, Ms. Young is a charming, audience-friendly performer and singer, all right, but she decidedly isn't Julie Andrews. So don't go expecting something like one of those touring tribute bands that emulate the real thing. What defines her show is a complete eschewing of pretense as she shares biographical anecdotes and some familiar and some less familiar tunes from Ms. Andrews' songbook. As she tells it, there is more to Julie "than spinning in the Alps, flying over rooftops, and exposing her breasts in a post-modern film about the movie business."

Depending on your own recollections from your youth or childhood, you can certainly find much to smile about as Ms. Young, accompanied by the adorable-dorky pianist and occasional singer Michael Roulston, performs the tender-treacly "Feed the Birds" from "Mary Poppins," songs from My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music and the ever-so-slightly more spicy "Le Jazz Hot" from Victor/Victoria. If your fandom runs deeper, there are less familiar stories of Julie's early training with her singing teacher, appearances as a child with her mother and stepfather's Music Hall act and on BBC Radio, and her breakthrough performances in the 1950s on the Broadway stage in Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend and on television in the production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.

Ms. Young generally shares the stories and songs with a cheery smile on her face. She even adds a touch of Forbidden Broadway with comic imitations of Liza Minnelli and a creditable Audrey Hepburn, who, as of course you know, starred in the film version of My Fair Lady, the upside of which is that Julie Andrews was free to do "Mary Poppins," followed immediately by "The Sound of Music." So not a bad trade-off. On the other hand, Ms. Young also addresses the damage to Julie's voice following surgery for nodules in her throat that pretty much marked an end to her singing career in 1997. It remains a sad tale that is soaked in additional speculation. What if she hadn't pushed herself to keep performing in the Broadway production of Victor/Victoria through bouts of bronchitis, the flu, and even pneumonia? What if she had had a better surgeon (she filed a lawsuit against hers)? What if she hadn't tried to pull off an embarrassing comeback at London's O2 Arena in 2010, at the age of 74?

In the end, while these things undoubtedly matter very much to Dame Julie Andrews and to superfans like Sarah-Louise Young, the truth is, it is the fantasy Julie Andrews and not the complex human being that sticks in our hearts and minds. So feel free to set aside your New York cynicism and do join in without embarrassment the audience sing-along that ends Julie Madly Deeply. Your supercalifragilisticexpialidocious secret will be safe with me.

Julie Madly Deeply
Through June 30
Theater B at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule:

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