Friday, November 9, 2012

Episode 9 - Guest Stars Robert Goulet and Joel Grey

From the author's 1972 collection
The 9th episode of The Julie Andrews Hour brought Broadway to the small screen with guest stars Robert Goulet and Joel Grey. From the moment the show begins, the audience is a roller coaster of great entertainment. These three performers know what it’s all about and they give a “socko” performance.

The show opens with Julie Andrews, Robert Goulet and Joel Grey seated before their dressing room mirrors, singing “Four Minutes Before We Open.” Julie and Joel Grey, who are still dressed in their bathrobes, begin to practice their dance steps, while Robert Goulet waits in impatiently for the arrival of his pants. He is  dressed only in a shirt, bow tie, tails, socks and shorts. 

After the opening number and some joking around, the show moves forward with the weekly segment, Look to the Stars. Tonight’s astrological sign is Cancer or “Moon children.” Paying tribute to Ringo Starr, Julie, "Bobby" and Joel sing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Each one plays a musical instrument; Julie has a big marching band drum strapped on, Joel plays the noisy cymbals and Robert, a triangle. The stars' playing of these instruments makes for some humorous moments.

The first solo of the evening is performed by Joel Grey.  Grey was born Joel Katz on April 11th, 1932 in Cleveland, Ohio. His father, Mickey Katz, was an actor, comedian and musician. Joel began performing as a child at the Cleveland Playhouse. He attended high school in Los Angeles and, eventually, ended up in New York where, by the 1960s, he appeared in one major Broadway musical after another: Come Blow Your Horn (1961), Stop the World – I Want to Get Off (1962), Half a Sixpence (1965) and the musical Cabaret (1966) for which he created the role of the Master of Ceremonies and won the Tony Award.

In 1968, Grey appeared in George M!, a musical about the life of showman, George M. Cohan. The show was a smash hit. On The Julie Andrews Hour, he performs a modernized version of George M’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” The music rocks, and the dance style is classic and hip. Grey is fantastic here, singing, while he dances across the stage with incredible speed.

It should also be noted that 1972 was the year the film “Cabaret” was released. Prior to this time, Grey was known to primarily to Broadway audiences. In 1972, however, he became a household name, and was praised internationally for his work. Six months after his appearance on The Julie Andrews Hour, he would receive the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the MC in Cabaret.

At the conclusion of Joel Grey's number, Julie and Robert Goulet pay tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein with the song, “We Kiss in the Shadow” from the musical, The King and I. The song was given a special arrangement for the show, with new harmony for the two singers. It is passionate and beautiful.

Following the musical numbers, Alice Ghostley portrays the characteristics of Moon Children in two comic scenes. In the first scene, she appears with both male guest stars, showing how Moon Children like to agree with others. In the second scene, she and Joel Grey play a married couple. The writers went to town on this scene. It is wild and wacky. In the scene, Joel and Alice play a married couple, having an argument after a party. Joel's character is drunk and wearing a lampshade on his head. It’s a crazy, funny scene, performed brilliantly by these two actors.

Choreographer and director of Cabaret, Bob Fosse, another Moon Child, is paid tribute to next. In an amazing segment, brilliantly filmed in dim light before a mirror, we watch Joel Grey mime putting on his makeup for the role of the MC in Cabaret. Having completed this action, he turns to the camera and smiles, and in that moment we see this brilliant actor go from Joel Grey the man to the character. It is stunning. Joel then performs “Wilkommen,” followed by Julie singing “Maybe This Time,” a fine performance that makes one realize Sally Bowles was a role she could have played. 

Robert Goulet enters, seats himself backwards on a chair and begins to sing “Cabaret” in a way that is riveting. Julie and Joel join in. The two men are seated, while Julie remains standing. The eight Tony Charmoli dancers enter carrying chairs and dance behind them.


The first half of the show is broken by a huge dance number with Julie Andrews and the eight Tony Charmoli Dancers. Although no notations on this have been found, it appears that this dance is patriotic and may have been inspired by the musical 1776 which appeared on Broadway in 1969 and closed in February of 1972. That same year the film was released.

In this musical number, Julie and the male dancers are all dressed in off white tights and high collared jackets with gold braid. The dance is quite long and intricate, with leaps, high kicks and formation. At one point, we see Julie and the dancers on the apron of the stay with a view of the audience. This is the dance written of previously, that Julie rehearsed and shot for three hours with the audience present. The huge applause at the end, no doubt marks the audience's happiness that they finally got it right. 


The second half of Episode 9 is dedicated to the songwriting team Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe. With Robert Goulet and Joel Grey  working on the show, it was the perfect opportunity for Julie Andrews to celebrate these great songwriters. The trio open this segment riding onto the stage in an wagon pulled by a big horse. They are singing songs from Paint Your Wagon. The stage is set with a wide horizon of blue sky which darkens as Julie sings her lovely solo, “I Talk to the Trees.”

The wonderful Lerner and Loew musical, “Gigi” is next with Joel Grey serving champagne to Julie, who is dressed in a lovely red gown. The pair sing “The Night They Invented Champagne,” and then, with chorus, dance a lively Can-Can. It's great fun. The hauntingly beautiful title song, "Gigi" is then sung tenderly by Robert Goulet.

Songs from "Brigadoon” are performed brilliantly Julie sings, “Almost Like Being in Love,” followed by other songs, including one where she and Joel Grey dance wonderful Highland fling.

Watching these great scenes, one marvels that the creators of The Julie Andrews Hour were able to put this show together in a week. But even more than that, one wonders how Julie, Joel and Robert were able to learn all these songs and dances and perform them so wonderfully with only a few days of rehearsal. The quality of the work tells us how amazing these performers really were.

Of course, the celebration of Lerner and Lowe gives Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet the opportunity to recreate a few moments from the musical Camelot in which they appeared together on Broadway. For this episode, they have chosen “What Do the Simple Folk Do.” It is a charming number, but, perhaps, what is most special is that for a few moments we feel as if we have time traveled back to Broadway fifty years ago. That is a treasure.

My Fair Lady arrives at the conclusion of this grand tribute, and any chance to see Julie Andrews recreate something from the show which made her a star is not to be missed. Here she sings “Show Me” with her eight dancers, and at one point, literally knocks them over. Whenever she performs these Broadway numbers she takes on an incredible energy, one that is magnetic, showing us how amazing she must have been on the Broadway stage.

At the end, the three stars sing “With a Little Bit of Luck.” Julie puts on her cockney, and, and at one point, playfully winks at the camera. In the end, all three performers are laughing and falling over one another. Seeing the energy and character of these three great Broadway stars is a joy, an inspiration and, for any aspiring actor or musical performer, a lesson not to be missed.

As Julie Andrews sings the final notes of her song, “Time Is My Friend,” it seems for a moment her voice trembles with emotion. It must have been a grand week for her, and, for us, it has been a grand night.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to add a few changes to this. I forgot about the dance number!