Last Night: Dame Julie Andrews at the Hobby Center

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Dame Julie Andrews
Hobby Center
December 3, 2007

Better Than: The network TV broadcast of The Sound of Music

Download: “Le Jazz Hot” from Victor/Victoria

Monday night at the Hobby Center, Dame Julie Andrews gave an inspiring lecture about her experiences on stage and in film, her involvement in charities, her recent artistic endeavors and her admiration for the late Robert Goulet’s legs. According to Andrews, Goulet’s legs, which she glimpsed in tights each night during Broadway performances of Camelot, were “simply divine.” (She says Richard Burton’s weren’t that bad, either.)

The remark may seem out of character for the British singer and actress known for, in her own words, a “so-called squeaky clean image,” but it is characteristic of Andrews, whose lovely speaking voice related anecdotes of both fairy-tale and more down-to-earth quality. In one instance, she recalled an occurrence from the final day of filming her Oscar-winning turn in Mary Poppins. Harnessed and hanging high above the set between takes, Andrews felt the rigging slip. Soon after, she found herself smacking “like a ton of bricks” to the studio floor, only to hear the rigging master call from behind the set, “Is she down yet?” Dame Andrews claims she uttered “several four-letter Anglo-Saxon words that Mr. Disney hasn’t heard before or since!”

Andrews also fielded prepared questions from young members of the audience. Parker Robinson, a third grader at River Oaks elementary, asked — with a “please” — what her favorite role has been and why. Andrews thanked the youngster for his good manners and answered, “It’s hard to choose…Of course Poppins and Sound of Music and Victor/Victoria,” but she also cited her lesser-known film roles as being profound learning experiences. (In 10, the Dame claims, Bo Derek, “who was a 10 if ever I saw one, gave me a whole new appreciation of Ravel’s ‘Bolero.’”)

The Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohans of the world could take a cue from Julie Andrews’s humility. When asked by Westside High School student Brittany Sullivan, “How do you stay so grounded?,” Andrews replied, “There is always someone waiting in the wings who could do what you do twice as well.” Another high schooler, Brittany Jameson, asked the seasoned thespian for advice for schools without theatre programs, to which Dame Andrews responded, “If you’re passionate about it, you will find a way.”

Of her successful career, as well as her 38-year marriage to Blake Edwards, Andrews said, “I consider myself hugely fortunate.” Even so, when asked which of her numerous accolades and awards have meant the most to her, she mentioned receiving a Kennedy Center Honor and her title from the Queen but added, “You always feel a little bit unworthy, really.”

While fans and critics would agree that Julie Andrews is far from unworthy, her modesty and class have held her in good stead.

Of course it also helps that, to quote director Moss Hart, “She has that terrible British strength that makes you wonder why they lost India.” – Linda Leseman

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: I would not have known about this event had my sweet mom not brought it to my attention. I owe my private obsession with musicals to her, as well.

Random Detail: Julie Andrews hopes to direct the stage version of her children’s book The Great American Mousical, which she co-wrote with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton.

By the Way: This lecture was part of the Brilliant Lecture Series. Next up, Diana Ross will make her first public speaking appearance at the Hobby Center on February 12, 2008.

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