by Patricia Grandjean
Nov 4, 2012
06:57 PM
Box Office

Q&A Exclusive: Julie Andrews


(page 2 of 3)

Your book really has a large cast of characters. Will there be that big a cast onstage?

Not quite. Obviously, expenses and all of that dictate the limits. At the moment, this is a piece in development, which is why it's at Goodspeed's second theater, the Norma Terris. I think that what we've done is combine characters a great deal, and there will be some doubling up, too—people who play one character in the first act will play others in the second act.

You've said it's a love letter to musical theater, but is there a deeper theme to Mousical?

Yes, I think there is one, which is that—it's actually said about the young intern—that "someone so small can do so much for so many." The smallest mouse really works miracles by the end of the show, saves the theater and so on. So there is that theme going on. I think the most important thing is to spawn a love of musicals. We have such a love for them, Emma and I, and Tony. And the tribute that we pay to all the other great musicals—not all of them, really, there are far too many to count—but audiences chuckle at the references, and the songs are a mixture of homages to other musicals and true book songs. So we have to tiptoe our way through the pure book songs and what I would call the pastiche songs, that are tributes. So far, the mix seems to work wonderfully well.

You talk about your love of musical theater—what about musical theater, from your perspective, makes it so special?

Oh my Lord—that's a huge question. I think the music, first and foremost, just elevates you. Believe me, sitting in your dressing room, hearing the overture played to My Fair Lady, is goose-bump time. That's true even today, if I hear it. The great musicals are just that; they are so exciting when they work. And it is the dedication and collaboration within the cast and crew of a great musical . . . if you think about it, they do eight shows a week, they work hugely hard embarking on, hopefully, a long journey together.

But I think it is the music for me, first and foremost, and how it works, and how it fits; how it weaves into the story and stands apart from the story. That is the first joy. Think about Gypsy, or Guys and Dolls, or Annie Get Your Gun, or West Side Story. There such an inspired joy in all of them, each one having it's own special character.

If you love the show they're attached to, the songs stay with you all your life.

I think ours will too; that was the wonderful discovery of these past two rehearsals that we did. The songs were just wonderful.

I think I asked you a similar question when you were working on The Boy Friend, but . . . what have you learned about being an effective director?

Well, I've learned that I'm still hoping that I am one [laughs]. There are so many times that you ask yourself, "Have I forgotten something? Is there something that I could really be bringing to this that I haven't thought of?" I think it is probably a culmination of all that I've done and seen. We are so influenced by all that has happened in our lives. And as you know, I've had the best examples, not only on Broadway but in working with my husband Blake [Edwards], and watching him direct. I think you bring a piece of all of that into the work process.

They always talk about people being an actor's director. Do you think you fit that?

I hope I do. I really understand the difficulty of fleshing out a full character, and how necessary it is. I think the greatest joy for me is passing on, to the company, one or two of the things I've been fortunate enough to learn. Just to give back a little bit is a great pleasure for me.

I think of you as someone who was involved in the golden age of musical theater. What do you think of the state of theater right now?

I think, funnily enough, that theater and movies have a similarity; they're cyclical. In other words, they go through phases. I think you're right, I was fortunate enough to work at the peak of the great golden age of musicals. And then for awhile, I think they were being advanced in different ways. Andrew Lloyd-Webber brought the rock beat to musicals; people tried different things. The joy of musicals is that there is no perfect recipe; it is what you throw into it. Today I'm really quite happy with what I see out there. There are so many musicals again on Broadway, and for awhile, there were only a handful. And the great ones are still great—it's wonderful to see so many coming back; it testifies to the strength and greatness of those shows. This season is a wonderful one.

Are there any musicals you've seen recently that are particular favorites?

I haven't seen nearly as much as I want to. I try to see what I can when I come into New York, but I've only just recently come from Los Angeles and I'm trying to make my base now more on the East Coast. So, to be honest with you, I haven't seen a lot. I've seen Newsies, which I loved. I haven't seen The Book of Mormon, which I want to see. Then, of course, I try to see plays and all sorts of things, as much as I can. I want to see more.

Let me ask you a couple more questions about Mousical. Do you know what style of set Tony is planning?

I think, because we're in development, it will be effective but minimal. I'm asked quite often, "How will you portray the mice?" Again, in minimal fashion—they won't be fully dressed as mice. There will only be suggestions, because I want the characters to come through very strongly. It's mostly establishing the perspective of humans to mice at the beginning of the show, which we do—we bring it down to a "mouse level," if you know what I mean. Once the audience gets that, I hope they'll accept that the characters are mice from then on.

What are your hopes for the show, ultimately? Are you hoping for a Broadway production?

That would be wonderful. What surprised us about the two rehearsals we did in New York  was that the piece is quite strong. I wasn't so sure of that when we began. But I do feel that we have a very strong, witty, charming musical. I'm not sure what it's life will be; I hope people love it as much as we do and as much as everybody seemed to in the past week.

Q&A Exclusive: Julie Andrews

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