Saturday, February 23, 2013

Daffodils for Julie


I suppose one of the things that bothered me the most was the fact that I had never spoken to Julie, nor expressed my gratitude to her. For months, I had watched her work. I had even looked into her eyes, but we had never spoken. The next Friday, February 16th, I decided it was time to say something. I wasn’t going to be allowed to attend the taping, but at least I knew where Julie would be.

That Friday morning, I had classes, first tennis and then speech. After giving my speech, I was on the way back to my seat when the teacher, Mrs. Pauchan, stopped me and told me to go back up onstage. She began to ask me a series of questions about the play, the speech I gave, was from. She also asked me about the character, and though I was uncertain about some of the answers, she insisted I answer all the questions. I was up there on stage for a long time.

After class was over, a girl stopped me and told me not to be so frightened. 

“You’re good,” she said. “You are better than the girl who was up there before you and she is a professional actress, who has done Shakespeare. She is way too sure of herself. I don’t know if you have worked or if you just have talent, but there is something special about you. What you were saying came across to me.” 

I was stunned. It has been such a long time since I received any encouragement (other than the encouragement my singing teacher gave me). At school, I hadn’t heard anything to justify my feeling that I could be a great actress. After my classmate finished speaking to me, I went outside. While I was standing there, the professional actress came over to me and said, “The teacher really liked you.” Again, I was surprised, because Mrs. Pauchan had really grilled me.

Now that I was finished with my classes for the day, I went home and worked on a letter to Julie. I really wanted to thank her for all the inspiration she had given me, but it wasn’t easy for me to express myself. Even on paper I felt tongue-tied. Later I noted that “I was afraid I devoted a little too much time on how the studio was home to me.” After finishing the letter, I ate my lunch—a piece of apple pie and washed my hair.

I bought Julie a bunch of yellow daffodils and went to the studio. As I handed the daffodils and my note to the page, I was so nervous my hands were shaking.  Still, I said cheerfully,

“Will you give these to Julie?”

“Sure,” he said, but I didn’t think he sounded convincing.

“Or give them to Sharri or Lorraine to give to Julie,” I added.

Then, I left.

                                                                       ***

It seemed strange to be eating dinner on a Friday night at the residence, rather than at the studio.

In the evening, Vivian called me on the payphone outside my room. She was lonely, and said she wished she was at the studio with Julie. She said she had called Carol and pleaded with her so hard to go to the taping that she began to cry. Still, Carol said, ‘No’ she couldn’t come.

Then, Vivian’s mother called Bill Harbach right inside the studio. She said she could hear Julie singing in the background. She told him it wasn’t fair if other people and their guests got onto a strictly closed set when her daughter couldn’t, and she hadn’t caused any trouble.

Bill told her that the first of the year “the important people working on the show (not Julie),” had a meeting and decided that we girls couldn’t come anymore because they didn’t want probation officers and parents calling the studio. And they all had agreed to keep the rule. Much later, I would be told there were strict rules about having minors present on the set. (Of course, I wasn't a minor, but I was seen as part of the group and no one believed I was over 18.)

When Vivian’s mother told him how Claire Priest and a camera man’s wife brought people in, she said Bill really got “riled up.”  He told her he would keep an eye out and personally “kick out” anyone he saw.
Vivian talked to me about an hour and a half. She wanted me to come over and go to a fashion the next day (Saturday), but later I called her back and said I couldn’t. I was going back to West Covina.


February 17 - Saturday
In the morning, I cleaned my room and then took the bus back to West Covina. The ride on the bus made me feel rather ill.

In the evening, I watched Julie’s show with the Muppets, Sergio Franchi and Sandy Duncan. I thought it was terribly good. My two year-old brother, John, danced to Julie’s opening number. It’s funny but when I used to have a front seat for the taping, everything looked terrible on TV. Now, after having to sit in the back, it looks wonderful.

John adored the Muppets and Julie was so cute with them. I noticed that when she was dancing with Thog, she kept looking to the side. She was probably trying to see Emma’s reaction to her dance with this huge creature. Her songs with Sergio Franchi were as good as any of her best shows – beautiful.


February 20 - Tuesday
On this day I went to inquire about a cleaning job, working for an 84 year-old lady who speaks seven languages. Her son came to interview me and said he thought they would take me. I would be paid for ten hours a week. My only thought, as noted in my diary, was this:

“Now I can buy Julie’s new record album, “The World of Julie Andrews” and listen to her lovely voice forever.” I wanted to hear her in-person, but I knew that was probably not going to be possible.


February 21 - Wednesday
I started my job today for the 84 year old woman today, but when I got to her area, I realized I had forgotten her address, so I had to call my roommate Lynn from a “posh plaza” for the number.  The lady has a small, nice place near the Ambassador Hotel. She is very nice and keeps hopping out of bed to talk to me. 

On this day, I cleaned the kitchen. Her daughter-in-law explained what I should do. The lady seemed a bit like a grandmother to me, after having lost my own grandmother. When I was leaving, she took my face in her hands and kissed me. When I told my mother what I was doing, she didn’t seem too happy about me working-cleaning, but then I didn’t think she would be.


By the next day, February 22nd, I was feeling very tired and all the bones in my face ached. “I can feel a fever is burning inside, though there is none outside,” I wrote.

The World of Julie Andrews
2-record album as it appears
when laid out full-length.
Although it contained a
collection of songs from
Julie's previous albums,
the photo is definitely from
The Julie Andrews Hour.
In recent days, I had finally gotten in touch with my singing teacher, Mr. Loring. My state of mind was such that I felt no one wanted me and that included Mr. Loring. I was worried he wouldn’t want to keep me on. So on this day, despite feeling very sick, I went ahead and had my lesson. Mr. Loring taped me singing, “Who Cares?” I thought I sounded sorrowful, but he said I did very well.

After my lesson, I went down and bought some more Binaca (what Julie used). Then, I searched for record albums at a place on Hollywood Boulevard that sold them very cheaply. I made a list of the ones I wanted, all for $1.98 each: Coco (starring Katharine Hepburn), Star and Judy’s Portrait in Song.  Then, I bought The World of Julie Andrews, a two-record album.  I thought it should have been called “Julie’s Portrait in Song” because it contained her sentimental, silly and happy songs---all sides of her.

Suddenly, after buying the album, I felt very upset about what I had written her. I left out the most important things. Why didn’t I tell her how much she inspired me, how much I had learned from her and the fact that I was now taking singing lessons because of her? Why didn’t I tell her how honored I was to learn from her? 

That night I couldn’t sleep, and when I finally fell asleep, I dreamt about Julie. Vivian, Patty and I were all there in a park with some very small very small children and Julie. We had a wonderful, happy, laughing time.
By the next day, February 23, I was so sick, I stayed in bed all day. Late in the afternoon, I went down and bought a copy of “The World of Julie Andrews” record for Vivian. She had called and asked me to buy her a copy as well.

The Ambassador Hotel, circa 1938
Later in the day, I went to work at the lady’s apartment. On the way to the lady's apartment, I bought her some milk and then walked through a lovely rose garden on the grounds of  the Ambassador Hotel. That was the first time I had ever seen it, though I knew of the famed Cocoanut Grove, which was inside the hotel. That was a place that all the film stars went and where many great talents, including Judy Garland, had played. Even my mother had dreamed of working there.  [The Ambassador Hotel has since been razed.]

In the evening, Vivian and I spoke again. She told me that the first time she met Jenny Edwards was during the show with Don Rickles. He kept teasing Jenny about the way she and Julie had performed and run around in Blake’s documentary, and Jenny seemed very embarrassed by his comments.

All week I had been saying, ‘everything will be fine when Friday comes and I see Julie again’ but as Friday approached, it was clear this was not going to happen. Friday I was told the show would be taped on a closed set, so I could not go. 

Meanwhile, I bombarded myself over the faults in my letter and despaired over the fact that I would never go to ABC again.

Looking back, I can see so clearly that should simply have been concentrating on school and my art, but I was distracted and confused by all I had experienced.  “Only two more shows and my dreams and hopes fall apart.” Yes, there were so many unspoken emotions within me and no way to express them that I fell into “a great depression.”

On Friday I was so ill, I skipped school and told my mother I was too ill to come home. I slept all morning, but in the late afternoon, I went to work and cleaned out the lady’s refrigerator.


Coming Next:  An Interview with Musical Director, Ian Fraser

All photos are for entertainment purposes only.

For a complete list of The Julie Andrews Hour blogs, with links to this site, please visit:

http://www.JulieAndrewsHour1972.com


If you would like to see The Julie Andrews Hour put out on DVD, along with  a Duets CD of Julie and her guests (and maybe others as well), please send a respectful e-mail to requesting this to:     dan.gopal@itv.com


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fame Makes for Strange Companions

In 1973, other than attending The Julie Andrews Hour, I lived a fairly normal life.  Yet, fame attracts a multitude of different characters, and, as I was soon to learn, not all of them are trustworthy.
After the taping of the 20th Episode with Thog, Sandy Duncan and Sergio Franchi, I went back to West Covina to spend the weekend with my family. While I was there, I realized suddenly I didn’t feel all that much at home anymore. My mother was busy with her relatively new husband and two small children. Meanwhile, I had finally experienced a new side of show business on my own. At one time, it would have been something my mother and I shared, but now she had a new life. I felt out of place and unwanted. Looking back, I think my mother was just busy, but young people often make quick judgments, and those judgments are not always accurate.  
That Sunday, when I returned to Hollywood, I felt so lonely, I cried myself to sleep. I was also missing my grandmother, Vuvu, who had died the previous December. My Nana, who had taken care of me when my mother was on tour, had just died three months earlier. That night, I wrote in my diary,
“How can people exist and be so much a part of our lives and then be gone?”
School continued, but I wasn’t doing well there either. In fact, everyone in my pantomime class had gotten a “D.” I don't think any of us understood the importance of mportance, but in any case, I was clearly restless. I wrote in my diary: 
“I feel stifled creatively at school and I’m afraid it will kill something within me. But I am done with that. Today, Mrs. Parichan told us not to be discouraged by bad grades.”
On Monday, moving along with the new plan for my life, I went to the college employment office school and applied for two jobs. I also started correspondence with Julie fan pen pal, a young boy my same age, who lived in Michigan. But I was nervous about sharing things with him and I told him my name was “Kate.”
 Being shy, I didn’t talk a lot to people, unless I knew them well. Lynn, my roommate, was one I had gotten to know well, and I shared just about everything that went on at The Julie Andrews Hour with her. I don’t think she cared that much about it, though she found my stories entertaining and a break from the long, hard hours she put into her studies. For my part, I needed someone to talk to and I was grateful she was willing to listen.
The only other person I know for sure was aware of my visits to The Julie Andrews Hour was Ann, the singer who had introduced me to my singing teacher. Even so, word got round that I was spending my Friday nights watching Julie Andrews work. So it was that one day, while eating breakfast in the residence’s dining room, I met a young girl named “Gita,” who told me she also had a connection to Julie Andrews.
Like many other girls in my residence, Gita had come to this country to attend school. To support herself, she had a part-time job and, as she informed me, working on this job she met an English lady named Joanna, who had gone to school with Julie.
‘Now,’ said Gita, ‘Joanna is living in Julie’s house.’
She also informed me know that the house with twenty-three rooms. Joanna, she said, had three children, ages 9, 11 and 13. Sometimes, these children sometimes came to stay with her.
Meanwhile, I was so surprised by this young girl’s information and the fact I was speaking to someone who knew something about the other side of Julie’s life, that I didn’t question her details. Gita seemed very sure of herself as she told me that Julie gave Joanna all of her old clothes. According to Gita, Joanna and Julie had begun their careers at the same time. Now, she said, Julie was taking Joanna to work with her, and she had even gotten her some work as a dancer on the show.
When I finally asked her how she knew Joanna, Gita told me that Joanna sold candy at her job. She also told me that Joanna had gotten Julie to autograph a picture for her. With great generousity, she offered to try to get an autographed picture for me too.
After our first meeting, every now and then I would run into Gita again, mostly in the dining room where we got two meals a day: breakfast and dinner.  The next time I met her, she told me that Joanna was now helping to take care of the mail Julie got at her house. She said that Julie got approximately 1,000 letters every few days, adding that some of them were bad or unpleasant, like people saying they wanted to marry her or would kill themselves, etc. 
One day, Joanna told Gita, she had tried to make Julie read some of the fan letters she received, and Julie had gotten mad. I’m not sure whether they had a fight over this or something else, but according to Gita, one day Julie and Joanna had a big fight, and Joanna had walked out.
Meanwhile, on this particular day, Gita was looking after Joanna’s children. Then, the phone rang. When Gita answered it, she heard a lovely English voice on the other end asking, “May I speak to Joanna?”
“May I ask who this is?” Guita said.
“Julie Andrews,” came the reply.
“Hello this is Guita.”
“Hello, how are you,” said Julie.
“She knows me,” Gita told me, adding, “When Julie leaves for England, Joanna is going with her.”
It was more than ten days before I saw Guita again, February 26th to be exact. She told me that Julie had been at the beach all week, so Joanna hadn’t been able to get an autograph for me. 
During the next few days, all the things this girl had told me were stirring around in my head. Were they true? Was there really a Joanna? Or was Guita making things up? Finally, I decided to do what I must; I called Claire Priest and told her about the girl. I asked her if Joanna was real. 
Mrs. Priest told me she didn’t know anything about a Joanna, “but that doesn’t mean anything,” she added. “There are lots of things I don’t know.”
But then, when, I told her Gita had said that Joanna told her Julie was at the beach all this week, she said,
“That’s wrong. I know where Julie was every moment this week. Monday and Tuesday, she spent all day rehearsing with Harve Presnell.  And today, she had her hair done.”
Suddenly, knowing this, made me feel much closer to Julie. I had been feeling so distant, as if the past was only a dream. Mrs. Priest had never talked to me as much before either. When I asked her what date Julie would be leaving California to go and make the movie, she said, “early spring.” Then I asked who chose her music for the show and she said, “Julie chooses her own music. They have meetings and I guess Julie has a say in what they are doing.”
I also asked if she had read the letter I sent to Julie at the studio (which I will write of in the next blog), and she told me, “No. Joan or Judy take care of that.” When I said “goodbye,” she told me she would check into Joanna.
It was more than a week before I spoke to Claire Priest again. When I phoned her on March 8th she confirmed that she had checked, and there was no one living with Julie named Joanna! So, Guita had made the whole thing up!
I didn’t see Guita again, until nearly the end of March. When she saw, me she told me that Joanna had quit her job and was going to leave for England with Julie. “She’s not coming back to the U.S.” she said. 
Of course, I didn’t believe a thing she said. I had learned a lesson in trusting others.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Episode 20 - Guests Sandy Duncan, Sergio Franchi and Muppets Jim Hensen


 “Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s Julie!” 
So begins the 20th Episode of The Julie Andrews Hour as introduced by announcer Dick Tufeld. This show first aired on February 17th, 1973. 

Wearing a lovely green, blue and white, floral-patterned, one shoulder gown, Julie can be seen standing center stage, surrounded by a circular, two-level seating arrangement.  There was no band, and the auditorium seats are empty. She begins to sing:

                            Let the drums roll out
                            Let the trumpet call!
                            While the people shout!
                            Strike Up the Band!”
                            (c) 1927 Music: George Gershwin, Lyrics: Ira Gershwin

At that moment, as if by magic, the orchestra appears and a full audience can be seen in the house as well. 

The opening number, a medley consisting of “Strike Up the Band/The Sweetest Sounds/I Hear Music” is upbeat and includes a lot of close-up shots of instruments being played. Julie looks fresh as a spring morning, and moves from area to area as she sings. At one point she sings,

                               “We must treasure every measure
                                 So that time will never change,
                                  The strange, new music of love.”

Then, for the grand finale Julie Andrews climbs (via hidden steps) onto a large bass drum. Even forty years later, this opening number seems fresh and exciting.

Sandy Duncan, Julie and Sergio Franchi
After completing her song, Julie introduces us to her guests: Sandy Duncan and Sergio Franchi.  A few moments later, we meet Rowlf of The Muppets, who seems a bit jealous of Sergio and wants Julie’s special attention telling her, that he is “Marcello Mastroianni in a flea collar!”

We are then introduced to some other Muppet characters – a lady and a furry black dog, which looks somewhat frightening. Unaware of this black creature, the lady is happily placing flowers in a vase when they begin to disappear. The monster/dog is sneaking around eating them. Eventually, he becomes bold enough to grab all the flowers. At one point, he is so happy over his conquest; he tosses the petals in the air, catches them in his mouth and chomps them down.

Filmed with a live audience, we hear a great deal of laughter during the segment, which makes it even funnier. After the dog is finished with the flowers, he begins to snuggle up to the lady. If you listen carefully, you can hear him say under his breath, “Kiss! Kiss!”  The middle aged lady is a nervous wreck and soon takes a cigarette out to smoke. The creature decides he wants one too, of course. In response, the woman takes out what is clearly a stick of dynamite. He puts it in his mouth and she lights it.

This entertainment was pleasing to young and old alike, but when Julie announces that Sergio Franchi will sing the theme from “The Godfather,” we are clearly in adult territory.  Walking onto a set of columned architecture, flowers and sunlight amid shadows, just the site of this tall, dark and handsome singer is arresting.

[Sergio Franchi was born Sergio Franci Galli in the Lombardi district of Italy on April 6, 1926. He often sang for the family as a child and as a teenager earned money by singing with a male vocal group in jazz clubs. During WWII, the family followed the father to Johannesburg, where Sergio was discovered by the local opera company and offered a role.
After the war, Alessandro Rota, a successful opera tenor, tutored Sergio, helping him to expand his range and learn technique. Eventually, he went to London where in 1962 he was discovered on London television. As a result, RCA signed him to a seven year contract.  From that time on, he was one of the most popular acts in show business. He became an American citizen in 1972. Sadly, after a thirty-six year career, Sergio Franchi died in 1990 at the age of 64.]
To learn more about Mr. Franchi, please visit:

From the first moment we hear Sergio Franchi open his mouth, we are aware that we are listening to something quite amazing. Along with his good looks, the richness of his voice and his powerful vocal ability are overwhelming. Tremendous performance!

***
Immediately following this grand number, we see Sandy Duncan and Julie Andrews in a restaurant/pub setting, wearing fishnet stockings, high heeds and wrap-around skirts cut high in the middle. They sing and dance to “The Last Blues Song.” The Tony Charmoli Dancers work as background in the beginning of the number; they are seated at tables and standing in various spots around the stage. Then, one of the dancers grabs Sandy and another, Julie, and soon, all the men are after them. It’s a fun, sexy number.

[Sandra Kay Duncan was born on February 20, 1946 in Henderson, Texas. She got her first job at the age of 12 when she was hired to appear in a local production of The King and I. Her pay was $150 a week. After moving to Los Angeles, she made a notable appearance as a bank teller in a TV commercial and also appeared on the daytime soap, Search for Tomorrow. Appearing on Broadway in a revival of The Boyfriend (which was Julie Andrews’ first Broadway play), as well as two films which did not do well at the box office, Sandy was named by Time Magazine, “one of the most promising stars of tomorrow.”
In the fall of 1971, Sandy Duncan starred in the television sitcom Funny Face, which was placed on Saturday night between All in the Family and The New Dick Van Dyke Show. In September of 1972, the show became The Sandy Duncan Show but was cancelled after 13 episodes. Thus it must have been a great boost to Sandy to be invited to appear on The Julie Andrews Hour in the spring of 1973.
In the future, Sandy Duncan would appear in many roles, both on television and on Broadway, where in 1979 she appeared in the title role as Peter Pan and received rave reviews. Today, she lives in New York City and continues to act in theater.]
For more information on Sandy Duncan and her television history, please visit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Duncan
                                                              ***

In the next scene, we see Julie and her guests—Jim Hensen, Sandy Duncan and Sergio Franchi—seated on the “Getting to Know You” set. Julie says to Sandy,

“Haven’t you always wanted to do a sexy number like that?”

She goes on to say that they both have always played “good and proper” roles, to which Sandy adds that their roles have always been about people who were, “honest, gentle, sensitive, descent, humble and sweet.”

“Just what we are in real life,” Julie comments. “That was the other side of us.”

“The real side,” says Sandy, bubbling over a little.

Julie asks about the fact that that Sandy got married only a couple of weeks prior to the taping. Sandy says they are lucky her husband likes Julie

“Yes,” says Julie, “Because we worked so hard, no one has been home this week.”

Jim Hensen, Muppets' creator and
Julie Andrews
 Then, she turns to interview Jim Henson, asking him how long the Muppets have been in existence. She thought they began with Sesame Street, but that was not the case.

Jim Henson tells her that the Muppets have been around for “seventeen to eighteen years” now. Their first appearance was on the old Steve Allen Sunday Show, which was produced by Bill Harbach and Nick Vanoff, who are also the producers of The Julie Andrews Hour.

When Julie asks Jim Hensen if he has any favorites among the Muppets, he says that “Rowlf” has always been one of his favorites and he also likes “Kermit.” He has about a dozen people working with him, some work in the workshop, making puppets. He’s been lucky to have “great talents” in each field work with him, he tells us.

[Jim Hensen was born in Greenville, Mississippi on September 24th, 1936. Although it is said he never thought he’d make a name for himself as a puppeteer, his work obviously went far beyond what any prior puppeteer as done. Henson’s work – his beloved Muppets – are know and loved by children and adults of all ages. Sadly on May 16th, 1990, Jim Henson died of a bacterial infection. His Muppets are now, for the most part, owned by Disney.]
To learn more about Jim Henson, please visit:
During the interview, we also learn that it often takes two people to work a puppet. As in the case of Rowlf, Jim Henson worked Rolfe’s head and one paw, and someone else had to work the other paw.

“Right now, there’s another character here that would like to meet you, but he’s too shy.”

“Oh, bring the little fellow over…” is Julie’s comment, but she soon learns this fellow is not so little. Although Jim Henson tells her that he’s about 8 feet tall, clearly, he is taller than that, more like ten feet.

“He would like to sing a song to you,” says Jim, so Julie gets up and goes over to meet Thog in one of the most charming scenes.

When Julie asks Thog how he is, he says, “I’m blue.” Of course, his color is blue, but that’s not what he means. He’s blue because he wants to dance with her and is afraid she won’t dance with him. The humility of this great creature is so sweet and touching. It should be mentioned that for years, along with scores of other characters, puppeteer Jerry Nelson played this wonderful creature, both inside the body and speaking for him, which was quite a feat as it involved a pa system.

To learn more about Jerry Nelson, who was one of the earliest members of  Jim Hensens’ troupe, and read an interview with him, please click here:

For more information, please visit:


 As Julie and Thog begin to dance, his mouth kind of hits her hair and later when he bumps her, his ears go up. Julie seems so sincerely delighted to be dancing with Thog. She clasps his hands and pulls his arms around her. Thog is so huge and that it almost seems a bit frightening to see him dance with Julie; it seems that he could easily fall on her and crush her. Yet watching the two of them move together brings such a feeling of amazement and delight, that you can’t help smiling.

***

After the commercial break, we are once again on the “Getting to Know You” set. This time, Sergio Franchi has moved to the seat next to Julie. She asks him when he left opera, and he tells her that his last performance in the opera was in Samson and Delilah, with a Delilah that weighed 350 pounds. Julie confesses that although she sang arias as a child, she never sang opera. Sergio reassures her by saying, “If you were my Delilah, I could sing it every night of the week.”  Then, holding hands, the pair walk to a new area of the stage and begin to sing this lovely music by Camille Saint-Saens. This lovely piece with Sergio Franchi and Julie certainly deserves to be among the songs Julie’s Duets CD.

***
Julie with Rolf
To conclude the first half of the 20th Episode, Rowlf has another bit with Julie, telling her he wants to be her dog. “But I already have a dog,” says Julie. “Does he talk,” asks Rowlf. “No, he’s very discrete,” says Julie.

***
Now, it’s time for the tribute to the “Music Men” and tonight’s songwriter is Jerome Kern (1885-1945). The scene opens with a lovely evening sky and cherry blossoms. Couples stroll along and Sergio begins to sing the wonderful, “I Hear Music.” Julie soon joins him singing, “The Way You Look Tonight.” This becomes a glorious duet with grand, sweeping orchestral music, something that was once popular which we don’t hear anymore. Still, this duet is exquisite and should certainly be on any Duets CD of The Julie Andrews Hour.

After this very romantic scene, we find Sandy Duncan seated demurely in a chair, singing, “I’m Old Fashioned.” Meanwhile, two of the male dancers, Gary Menteer and Jerry Trent, dressed in bell bottoms and blossomed sleeve shirts, dance in a very modern, sexy, 1970s style.  Before long, Sandy joins them, showing what a great dancer she is, and that she has the ability to shake it with the best of them.

Nelson Riddle and his arranger, Ian Fraser, have updated some of the intros to the old songs in this segment, as well as they rhythms in the chorus. These arrangements bring an unexpected excitement to these wonderful but familiar tunes. This is certainly the case with Sergio Franchi’s solo, “Old Man River,” which is played with a quickened rhythmic beat, making it up-tempo.

Sergio has a dramatic presence on the stage. His charisma and the power of his voice, makes you feel you can’t get enough of him. All that can be said as you watch this performance is “Wow!”

In sharp contrast to the previous scene, in the next scene we see Julie, wrapped in a chiffon scarf, walking the streets of Paris. The scene is dark and there are lovers seated on the ground and standing in the shadows. She rests her head against a railing and sings, “The Last Time I Saw Paris” with a slow and dreamy tempo. Looking into the distance, we see in her eyes the story, and believe that she has lived every word she sings. A beautiful moment, beautifully taped and preserved.

After these wonderful solos, the three stars come together to sing something upbeat – “Pick Yourself Up (dust yourself off and start all over again). Adding a little “I Won’t Dance” into the song, Sergio suddenly breaks away and does some fine tapping. The girls join him and say, “He can dance!” Then, in a final moment of comedy, he ends the final move by turning in the wrong direction!

The set is flooded by long, tapered candles, which appear to be the only thing lighting Julie as she sings, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.”  This is certainly among Jerome Kern’s most famous songs, but doubtless, there is another reason it was included. Producer, Bill Harbach’s father, lyricist Otto Harbach, wrote the lyrics for this song in 19---. Julie sings it beautifully.

Bringing the show to a positive conclusion, Julie, Sergio and Sandy sing “Look for the Silver Lining.”

Then, at the very last moment, Thog appears on stage. This time he is wearing a little (for him) red striped jacket. He wants to dance with Julie. Julie sings the final notes of “Time Is My Friend” leaning against Thog, and then the pair dance, Julie twirling and curtsying in her lovely gown. It’s a shame the set is so dark, but it is a lovely ending to a lovely show.

(c) Michelle Russell

All photos here are for entertainment purposes only!

Coming soon: Fame Makes for Strange Bed Fellows

If you would like to see The Julie Andrews Hour put out on DVD, along with  a Duets CD of Julie and her guests (and maybe others as well), please send a respectful e-mail to requesting this to:     dan.gopal@itv.com

(I have asked for another address, but this person is in charge of global products, which should include DVDs and CDs.)

As always, you can find a list of blog subjects on The Julie Andrews Hour with links back to this site:

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Episode 19 - Guests Angela Lansbury, Steve Lawrence and Rich Little



The opening moments of The Julie Andrews Hour on February 9th, 1973 were a grand tour de force. With only a silhouette of Julie Andrews' darkened figure against a beautiful blue background, we hear her sing:

“You are the angel glow that lights the stars,
The dearest things I know are what you are.”
            © Music, Jerome Kern, Lyrics, Oscar Hammerstein II

At that moment, the lights come up and Nelson Riddle’s orchestra joins Julie in a crescendo of music and emotion. The view is quite stunning. Miss Andrews is wearing a white caftan gown, with beaded circles and exquisitely beaded sleeves, fit for a queen.

To learn more about Julie Andrews’ gown, please click the link and visit Julien’s Auctions where the gown was sold last year. 


The setting is rich; a darkened theater, with only a pattern of lights along the sides of the stage and the footlights. The footlights form a walkway from the back of the stage all the way onto the apron. The various camera angles reveal that Julie is singing to a full house, and the wonderful camera work allows us to feel that we are there.

***

Directly following the opening number, Julie welcomes her guests for the evening: Steve Lawrence and Angela Lansbury. Rich Little is also a guest tonight, and will play many important roles during the evening.

 From the very beginning, it is clear that this show will celebrate the theater.  Julie, Steve Lawrence and, of course, Angela Lansbury, have all played important roles on Broadway.  Once introduced, the four performers are seen in a costume room singing, “High Diddle-Dee- Dee, An Actor’s Life for Me.”  This song is the entrance into a series of musical comedy numbers; some performed with a comic edge quite different from the original.

In the first scene, we see Julie, Angela and Steve standing on a rolling ship in sailor outfits. Steve sings, “I am the Captain of the Pinafore…” from H.M.S. Pinafore. The point of the song seems to be that the Captain never gets seasick, but after a time of rolling on the rough sea, Steve jumps overboard, and, in the final moments, the crew (Angela and Julie) gets thoroughly sloshed with water.

In the second scene, Steve Lawrence plays a Sheik on the desert. As he begins to sing “Desert Love Song,”  we see Julie, in the role of an elegant English lady, coming from her tent, obviously smitten with him. 

Suddenly, just as the pair become inter-twined, the wind begins to blow. In fact, it blows so hard, bit by bit, Steve’s clothes are blown off, leaving him wearing only shorts and an undershirt. Mr. Lawrence, who seems to be comfortable with every style of music, is wonderful here in this duet with Julie. Meanwhile, the beauty of the scene and the music juxtaposed to the fact that Steve is having his clothing ripped off and the palm tree, to which Julie clings, is collapsing, makes for great hilarity.

The third sketch portrays a scene from the wonderful, but mostly now forgotten, Jackie Gleason Show.  In it, Rich Little plays Jackie as “Joe the Bartender” and Steve Lawrence plays Frank Fontaine’s “Crazy Guggenheim.” Frank Fontaine (1922-1978) was famous for his ability to play “goofy” characters and then sing with an incredibly deep and beautiful voice. Both men are wonderful here, and although Lawrence is not known as an impersonator, he is not afraid to act “goofy” and is excellent as Fontaine.

The fourth scene reveals two unique personages of the silver screen: Rich Little as W. C. Fields and Angela Lansbury as Mae West. The opening moments are rather thrilling. We see the back of a very shapely figure in a lovely hourglass gown and a big hat with a feather. When she turns, we realize that Angela Lansbury is playing Mae West to perfection. In this scene, Miss Lansbury also sings a song that was a big hit in the late 1960s and beyond, “Hey, Big Spender.”

The sixth and final musical comedy scene stretches the laughs about as far as they can go. In this scene, Rich Little plays Cher and Steve Lawrence, wearing a skin tight outfit, plays Sonny. Although even in makeup, Rich Little is not nearly as attractive as Cher, he captures her mannerisms and vocal quality to a “T.” Lawrence is quite funny as Sonny and the dialog between the two, which includes trading those famous put-downs, is hilarious.

The musical comedy segment concludes with a high speed gorilla chase through all the scenes we have just seen. While everyone runs for their life, trying to get away from the gorilla, Julie Andrews sits, cool as a cucumber, watching the crazy chase with people running, falling and bumping into one another, without batting an eye. The gorilla does not bother her. At the conclusion, it’s great fun to see these wonderful stars hop onto the costume racks and ride around the stage, singing about the wonders of an actor’s life. 

****

After all the madcap musical numbers of the previous segment, we are introduced to the bossonova music of Luiz Bonfo (1922-2001). Born in Brazil, guitarist Bonfa’s work was at the heart of the samba-cacao style. To learn more, please visit:



He explains that he is going to show us what he can do with ten fingers and six guitar strings, and he proceeds to do just this, making lovely melodies and intricate rhythms on his guitar. 

Bonfo’s solo leads to a beautiful medley/duet with Julie and Steve. With Bonfo on guitar, Julie and Steve, seated on a three-step platform with palms and shades of blue and light, sing “Watch What Happens/Wave/Gentle Rain, A Day in the Life of a Fool.” (by Luiz Bonfa) It is a lovely relaxing duet, with unique music that would be a fine addition to a CD of Julie Andrews Hour duets!

***

Angela, Julie and Steve on the
"Getting to Know You" set
After all the comedy and music, it’s time for some conversation. We find Julie, Angela and Steve sitting on the “Getting to Know You” set, discussing some of the Broadway shows they appeared in. There are some funny anecdotes by Steve and Julie about fellow actors not showing up onstage when expected, and there is a lovely song, “Say a Prayer For Me Tonight,” which was taken out of the show Julie Andrews starred in, My Fair Lady, and put into the film, Gigi. Julie sings the song with great feeling, and it's a joy to be able to see it. 

During this segment, we also learn that Julie Andrews first met Angela Lansbury while appearing in her first Broadway show, The Boyfriend. Miss Lansbury’s mother, Moyna MacGil, was also appearing in this show in the role of Lady Brockhurst.

[Angela Lansbury was born in England on October 16, 1925. The daughter of an actress, Miss Lansbury came to the United States during WWII. Her first film role as Ingrid Bergman’s maid in the thriller, Gaslight, earned her an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She was only eighteen. The following year she received another nomination for her role in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

More great roles followed but by the 1960s, Miss Lansbury decided to work in New York. She appeared in numerous Broadway shows, frequently in musicals. Her title role in Jerry Herman’s musical, Mame, brought her much success and popularity. Over the years, Miss Lansbury has received numerous awards, but she is perhaps best known for her long running television series, Murder, She Wrote which ran from 1984 - 1996.]

To learn more about Angela Lansbury’s career, please visit:
The discussion of theater, soon turns to  Dear World, a musical version of The Madwoman of Chaillot, for which Jerry Herman wrote the music. Ms. Lansbury says there is a song in this show that she particularly loved to sing. In the show, she played Aurelia, an eighty year old woman (she was about 40 at the time). As Miss Lansbury describes the moment in the play when she sings this song, she says that the world was being taken over by automation and all the beautiful old buildings of Paris were being torn down. The song says, “I Don’t Want to Know” if the world is no longer kind or beautiful.

To watch Miss Lansbury sing this song is to see what it means to be a great musical actress. Seated simply in a chair, Angela Lansbury creates a moment that fills the stage. With only a few phrases, you are taken to another place, until the middle of the song when her vision and emotion totally sweep you away, 

                 “My memories all are entrancing,
                  My memories all are exciting,
                  My memories burn in my head with a steady glow,
                  So, if my friend, if love is dead,
                  I don’t want to know------!”                   © Jerry Herman

Following these wonderful moments of conversation and song, we are soon back on the darkened stage where the show began. Dressed in a tux, Steve Lawrence sings about the Palace, the great male performers of the past, and then asks “But what about the girls?” Then, taking on vocal quality of famous MC, George Jessel, he announces the old vaudeville act, “The Dolly Sisters!” 


Julie Andrews (l) and Angela Lansbury (r)
Dressed in form-fitting satin gowns, feather headdresses and huge feather wings, Julie and Angela enter the stage like the two veteran performers they are, ready to hit the boards and knock ‘em dead. Singing “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” they strut, wiggle and bump their way across the stage. They are glamorous and sexy, and it’s great fun to watch them.
In the next scene, both women appear onstage as Ethel Merman. Wearing brown wigs and gold gowns, they sing “I’ve Got Rhythm. Angela sings the chorus with the brashness Merman made famous, while Julie holds the “Ah” note for 8 to 16 bars at a time. Then, they switch. By the end of the song, both ladies are falling over one another, laughing.

Following this brash and funny number, we enter a different world; a world of of love and true theatrical elegance. Dressed in a low-cut, wine colored satin gown, Angela Lansbury is seated on a grand piano, holding a glass of red wine. Portraying famed singer Helen Morgan, she sings, “My Bill.” The performance is so simple, so full of joy, and as we watch her, we know this is the real deal; this is what every performer aspires to, what every audience hopes to see. It is theatrical, but oh so true to the heart. A great, great moment, wonderfully preserved on The Julie Andrews Hour.

In the next musical scene, Julie Andrews plays the great Eleanor Powell, tapping away on a unique formation of circular steps with amazing ability. Julie is beautiful in this number and really portrays Eleanor Powell’s style and spirit. She simply lights up the stage.

Dressed to the hilt in a sequin gown with feather boa and orchids, Angela Lansbury comes onstage, singing “Some of these Days” in tribute to Sophie Tucker, who was once know as the last of the “red hot Mamas.” 

The next musical number reveals Julie and Angela, dressed as Carmen Miranda, singing “I Yi, Yi, Yi.” It’s a fast Latin number, and it's fascinating to watch these two ladies put on the moves and the charm with all those special Carmen Miranda moves. At the conclusion, Julie bumps Angela in fun and nearly knocks her over.

For the final solo, Julie Andrews gets to portray Judy Garland singing “The Trolley Song” in Meet Me in St. Louis. She looks lovely in the role and The Tony Charmoli Dancers join in on the trolley, one playing the boy she wants to stop from getting off the trolley.

The two ladies, Andrews and Lansbury, finish off their musical segment by portraying the Rockettes. They do a fine job with the high kicks. Mirrors are brought in to multiply the two stars and turn them into a chorus line of Rockets. Putting all of these musical performances together in a week, must have been a daunting task, nevertheless, these ladies are top of the line and they do a great job.

For the final moments of the show, Julie Andrews, Angela Lansbury, Steve Lawrence and Rich Little appear on the stage wearing the outfits they began the evening in. Julie sings a portion of “Time Is My Friend” while Rich portrays someone Vincent Price and Steve Lawrence follows him, making Julie laugh. Angela Lansbury seems a little less happy about having these ‘monsters” attack her. Still, this is a wonderful show with many timeless performances. All in all, it is probably one of the most enjoyable of The Julie Andrews Hour episodes.

Coming Next – The 20th Episode with Guests:  Sandy Duncan, Sergio Franchi, Jim Henson and The Muppets

All Photos are for entertainment purposes only

To see a complete list of Julie Andrews Hour blogs with links back to this site,



If you would like to see The Julie Andrews Hour put out on DVD, along with  a Duets CD of Julie and her guests (and maybe others as well), please send a respectful e-mail to requesting this to:     dan.gopal@itv.com