The lights dim, and on the screen at the Hollywood Bowl we see pictures of Julie Andrews at different stages of her life: at her childhood home in England, her first appearance in America at the ripe age of nineteen, her appearances in the stage versions of My Fair Lady and Camelot, and the finally her iconic performance in the movie of The Sound Of Music, ending with that incredible long shot on the mountain meadow and the close-up of her lovely face as she sings “The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music.” The audience joins in singing.
So begins a memorable evening at the Bowl entitled Julie Andrews: The Gift Of Music, with Julie Andrews herself as our host. She has brought the conductor/composer Ian Fraser and friends from the Broadway stage: singers Stephen R. Buntrock (Martin Guerre and Phantom Of The Opera), Christine Noll (Jekyll and Hyde), Kevin Oderkirk (Les Miserables), and Jubilant Sykes (Metropolitan Opera).
The first half of the concert is dedicated to Rodgers and Hammerstein. The first number is “Getting to Know You” from The King And I, sung by the full company including Julie herself. Despite throat surgery twelve years ago, she can still sing, albeit at a lower pitch and with a narrower range. She later sang “My Funny Valentine” by Rodgers and Hart on her own, to the great pleasure of all. Other highlights were Jubilant Sykes singing “If I Loved You” from Carousel, Anne Runolfsson’s “Nobody Told Me” from No Strings, Christiane Noll singing “In My Own Little Corner” from Cinderella, and a gorgeous group rendition of “The Sweetest Sounds I‘ve Ever Heard” from No Strings.
The second half of the program was a musicalization of Simeon’s Gift, a popular children’s book written by Julie and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. The music was written by the conductor, Ian Fraser, performed by the guests, and narrated by Julie. It was hummable, and I really liked “Blue Blue Eyes” sung by Ms. Noll. My only criticism is that perhaps the Rodgers and Hammerstein should have come second, because it’s hard to compete with the memory of those songs.
We were also treated to projections of the book’s exquisite illustrations by Gennady Spirin. The story is about a minstrel who learns, through encounters with a bird, a faun, and a fish, that his “Gift” is just being himself and letting the music pour forth from his heart and soul. The piece combines Julie Andrews’ twin passions: music, and her advocacy for children’s literature. The concert was performed on July 18th and 19th at the Hollywood Bowl as part of the Bowl’s summer season.