Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton talk about taking their children’s book empire to the stage

Julie Andrews (left) and Emma Walton Hamilton sign copies of “The Pretty Fairy Princess Takes the Stage” at Barnes & Noble, May 10, 2011 in New York City. Gary Gershoff/WireImage Gary Gershoff/WireImage

later Victor / Victoria Opening on Broadway in 1995, a solitary little mouse made its way from the guts of the Marriott Marquis Theater into the theater’s locker room. Julie Andrews, who had both title roles, got word from her hairstylist, who told her that traps had been set.

The actress responded to this news with the mixture of horror and compassion one would expect from someone who owes her a debt Mary Poppins Oscar for the man who created Mickey Mouse: “Oh, can you please Make sure to put it out humanityrap? If you catch the little mouse, don’t kill it. Take it somewhere far away so you can have a life in the country.”

Andrews shyly admits this response: “The hairdresser looked at me like I was crazy, and then said, ‘Julie,’ Broadway theaters are full of rats downstairs. There are probably hundreds – perhaps thousands – of mice here. Perhaps this just came to look at the all-stars. This made us laugh. Then all of a sudden I got a lamp about this idea and started thinking, ‘Oh, my God! A rat squad in the basement of a large theater! I wonder if they do their own shows downstairs for their fans. “

She passed on this idea to her usual assistant – her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, who is just as theatrical savvy as her mother. With her husband Stephen Hamilton and producer Sybil Christopher, Hamilton founded the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York, 31 years ago and has run it ever since—all while at the same time writing 31 children’s books with Andrews.

“The more we talked about it, the more excited we got,” admits Hamilton. “What a way to bring the magic of theater to a manageable level for young readers! Within this group of mice could all be the classic characters of any theater, be it human or mouse: the director, the tough lady leader, the apprentice, the weary producer, the hysterical hairstylist .

“Some of them can be terrible stereotypes – but they are done with great passion and love. We had a great time writing it, modeling these mouse characters after the people we know, love and work with, and bringing our experiences and theatrical backgrounds to bear in creating this story – while At the same time, we are giving children an otherwise-a subtle message that theater is important. This is the primary agenda for us: helping children discover and understand the wonders of theater.”

Filled with illustrations of the late, great designer, Tony Walton (Hamilton’s father and former Andrews lover) and a glossary of theatrical terms to keep kids in the loop about stage etiquette and expressions, great american musician It first saw the light of print in 2006. Six years later, it first saw the light on stage, courtesy of the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut.

This theatrical translation came as a slight surprise to Andrews, who sent a copy of the book to Goodspeed director, for being a friend. “Within a couple of days, we got a response, ‘Oh, we’d like to try to develop it,'” she recalls. Could – could you be interested? ”

Composer Zina Goldrich and poet Marcy Hessler, who provided music for Drew Barrymore’s Cinderella foreverwere engaged to write the score, and Hunter Bell, who wrote the one-act book that Tony nominated [title of show]took Andrews Hamilton book.

The plot that develops is a life-or-death situation for the theatre. like humans in Foolishnessmice in great american musician Threatened with demolition and extinction. But what actually saves the theater from the wrecking ball are mice, which, as Hamilton points out, play a direct part in the overriding message that “No matter how small one is, one can always make a contribution. You never know what you can achieve even despite your size. or your age.

Andrews was young when she began telling stories. “I loved it when I was a kid,” she remembers. “I used to make things up all the time.” But her first book, mandy, as a concession – about 50 years ago. As a result of a game she was playing with her eldest daughter—Jennifer Edwards, daughter-in-law with her late husband, director Blake Edwards—Andrews said, “Well, what are my sources?” Jennifer suggested that she create a story for the family.

Andrews recalls: “I thought of writing it as a little legend, but, realizing Jennifer was a city girl and didn’t know much about the country, she kind of grew and grew — thanks to Blake’s influence. Baby, it’s such a sweet idea, he told me. Just keep going. Build the pages, one by one.”

As soon as I wrote the end to me mandyAndrews felt so deserted and empty that I immediately wanted to do something else, which is Another of the truly great Whangdoodles. It started. ”

Her deep dive into children’s books didn’t happen until 1997—when she had to. “After, after Victor / Victoria And after the operation on my throat, which unfortunately didn’t work – I was asking around, thinking, ‘I should do Something! And when we asked the publisher if I had anything for very young children—especially boys—I said, “Let me think about it, and I went home to Emma. I had just given birth to a beautiful son, and I said, ‘If you had to pick out any book from the library for Sam, what would Would it be?” Emma said, “It must have something to do with the trucks—fire trucks, garbage trucks, whatever. He was a year old and pretty much speechless, but he just wanted to read books about trucks and sleep on sheets with trucks on and wear T-shirts with trucks on. You can just read “The Bulldozer Goes Ka Ranch“Just so many times!”

Like an obedient grandmother, Andrews closed bookstores for truck stories destined for families and found nothing. So I said to Emma, ​​’Shall we do one together and see what happens? “

Thirteen Dumpy the Dumpy the Dumpy the Dumpy the Dumpy the Dumpy the Dumpy dump truck Stories Happened – followed by (for retribution side) 12 Very fairy princess Stories. Dotting them was mutual love, great american musician.

Goodspeed’s staging – seeing their story come true on stage – remains a vivid and vivid memory of the mother and daughter authors. “We always wish we had Music It’s going to go on from there and kind of go on with life,” says Hamilton, “but, between other commitments and Covid and all sorts of other dramas that get in the way, it’s off. “

Its new news is that the rush is finally starting and a new production is in the pipeline, starting tonight. “We have received this call from the Wallis Annenberg Center in Los Angeles to begin full production in 2023,” in preparation, Bay Street abandons “Dark Monday” for a phased read. great american musician This not only benefits the theater but gives the authors a chance to put it back on its feet and modernize it.

Andrews will direct a Broadway-caliber crew headed by Debra Monk, Howard McGillen and Jonathan Freeman. Other roles (except for one) will be played by company members RagtimeWhich currently occupies the Bay Street Theater the rest of the week. The exception is Hope Hamilton, 19, who will be mentored by her grandmother in the intern role.

Charming and extremely graceful for 86 years, Andrews has earned a stash of Life Achievement Awards, most recently from the American Film Institute this summer. Along the way, there were an Oscar, a BAFTA, two Emmys, three Grammys and six Golden Globes. Queen Elizabeth made it official in 2000, naming her a Lady of the Performing Arts Services.

It’s a challenge to do a piece about Julie Andrews and not use the word sweetheart. I almost got it done.

Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton talk about taking their children's book empire to the stage

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