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:

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