Sarah-Louise Young is currently appearing in her self-penned tribute to Julie Andrew “Julie Madly Deeply”. She talked to Fiona-Jane Weston here about this new work.
“…on the face of it this show appears a departure from Young’s usual fare, it is in fact the culmination and bringing together of her different talents and disciplines..”
Sarah-Louise Young is no stranger to the cabaret scene, having written and performed 1-woman shows for over 10 years, guesting with Fascinating Aida and winning awards for her caustic, brittle and sometimes scatalogically funny character of Cabaret Whore. She was also the first hostess of Excess All Areas monthly cabaret showcase and fun competition Cheese-N-Crackers, where all kinds of artists put themselves in the spotlight, from burlesque dancers to very whacky singers and performance poets to vaudeville performers who might swallow swords or even hammer nails into their nasal cavities – not for the faint-hearted!
So it came as a surprise to see she was to do a show on the apparently sweet and squeaky-clean Julie Andrews, even doing a whole Christmas season in the West End’s Trafalgar Studios with children in the audience.
I wanted to find out more.
I saw a Friday matinee with a packed house with, indeed, a number of quite young children, though it is not, nor is it billed as a children’s show. I asked her if she censors any element of the piece when youngsters are in the house, but she does not. There are a couple of instances of fruity language, but these are not sustained, and in the sections of the show where Young improvises, she greets the children personally as Julie Andrews’ singing teacher, helping them to feel at ease in the theatre, and thus implicitly lets the audience know that she is aware children are present and, therefore, relaxing them too. A deft and pleasing touch.
Whilst on the face of it this show appears a departure from Young’s usual fare, it is in fact the culmination and bringing together of her different talents and disciplines, being musical theatre, cabaret and improvisation. Young is a member of the improvisational musical theatre group The Showstoppers, which undoubtedly keeps her sharp for this element in her own show, bringing freshness, variety and added excitement to it.
It is a long show for a 1-person performance – the best part of 2 hours with an interval. With 8-9 shows a week, I asked her how she takes care of herself.
“I am very boring. I don’t drink if I have a performance the next day, even refusing a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve. I sleep, and steam my voice every night, do a military run every morning (!), and warm down my voice after the shows, especially if going out to the pub with friends.”
Tributes can be difficult to get right, especially when dealing with an artist of such iconic status as Julie Andrews, where most of the audience have grown up with her, seeing her in the cinema and on TV every year. Some fans are ecstatically enthusiastic and will never forgive a performer for putting her down in any way or seemingly showing disrespect. Others will have been dragged along by fans under sufferance, expecting to have their teeth set on edge by the inevitable “spoonful of sugar”.
This show strikes a skilful balance. People Julie Andrews came into contact with – directors, producers and other artists such as Liza Minnelli – are brought to life for us, providing variety of voice and sometimes a sharper edge. And on a subliminal level, as Young says: “…it invites the audience to reflect on their own relationship with her and the material”.
I liked it very much. I particularly enjoyed the theatrical devices and strong mime elements to advance the narrative of Andrews’ life. Whilst by no means saccharine, the writing and humour are respectful and affectionate towards the subject, and as her Musical Director Michael Roulston puts it: “…it takes the attitude of gratitude for her work, her dignity and strength of character, and her voice. We hoped to make something she herself would be happy to see, rather than make her the butt of jokes.”
It also works as a show in itself. You do not need to like Julie Andrews, or to know much about her work, to enjoy this piece. My companion for the evening – hardly a fan of Andrews – appreciated both the content and the craftsmanship of Young herself.
It will tour the UK in the Spring, visiting places from Maidenhead to Belfast.
For further details, visit the website here – and take some edelweiss.