HOUSTON -- Julie Andrews will be neither Victor nor Victoria at Theatre Under The Stars in Houston and its sister Fifth Avenue Musical Theatre Company in Seattle, as had been previously scheduled this year.
Though perhaps loathe to admit this cancellation was a long time coming, it was hardly surprising: Theatre Under The Stars had initially announced that Andrews would recreate her star turn in Victor/Victoria for its final show of the 1996-1997 season. However, recovery from throat surgery apparently forced several postponements. It had seemed Andrews would finally be sufficiently healed for the revival to be mounted this May, as the last offering of Theatre Under The Stars 1997-1998 season, and subsequently Fifth Avenue's. But no.
In a prepared statement, Frank Young, president and CEO of Theatre Under The Stars, said, "I heard on Monday [March 9, 1998] from Julie, who is at her home in Switzerland, that she has no idea how long it will take for her voice to bounce back, but the experts advise her not to undertake any commitments until next year. She is devastated that she will not be able to fulfill her commitment to Theatre Under The Stars and our affiliate theater in Seattle . . . . Julie's announcement took us all by surprise. We had been assured for months by Tony Adams, producer of the Broadway production of Victor/Victoria, that Julie expected to perform in Houston and Seattle this spring."
Much like the Broadway production, Victor/Victoria in Houston/Seattle may have been doomed from the start. The first plan was that the national tour would stop at these two sites at the end of their 1996-1997 seasons, whether or not Andrews would be reprising her New York role(s). That tour never materialized. Then Young received a commitment from Andrews to appear in a reworked version of the show in late summer 1997 exclusively for the two companies; it was to have been directed by her husband Blake Edwards, who helmed both the hit movie as well as the Broadway fare, the incentive here being the opportunity for Edwards and Andrews to work out some of the problems inherent in the musical. Soon afterwards, Andrews had throat surgery. Andrews asked to postpone the Houston/Seattle staging until November 1997, she making a raspy apology to Houston audiences via a local news program. Late last fall, Andrews pushed things back again, until spring 1998.
But it seems she and her doctors are unwilling to risk her voice on a two-city, six-week run of eight performances a week. The show will go on, however, some time in May of this year in Houston and shortly thereafter in Seattle, though with whom is the question. According to Susie Works, publicity director at Theatre Under The Stars, "major stars" will be cast on the quick for the lead male roles. A newcomer may (have to) play Victor/Victoria. Considering what has, and hasn't transpired, it's not likely that Edwards will direct, Works said.
Part of the reason Theatre Under The Stars/Fifth Avenue Musical Theatre Company is proceeding ahead at this point is that the Music Hall, home to Theatre Under The Stars since 1972, is being demolished as of May 31 and being replaced with a new theater, the $75 million Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, in 2001. In the interim, Theatre Under The Stars will have limited access to other venues as it produces full seasons out-of-pocket. Now or maybe never, in other words. Plus, a no-show isn't exactly the way to bring the house down. Not ever, of course, but especially not for what is the troupe's 30th anniversary.
"It's been costly in credibility and goodwill," Works admitted, "not just the recalling, reprinting, and refunding of tickets."