DIVA TALK: Chatting with Oscar Winner Julie Andrews, Co-Creator and Director of The Great American Mousical

By Andrew Gans
30 Nov 2012

Andrews in rehearsal

As for daughter Emma, who is a faculty member for Stony Brook Southampton's MFA in Writing and Literature Program, Andrews said, "She's been keeping her quiet eye on all of it, and she's been out to see it, and she'll be coming again. She's offered thoughts and advice, but I think in terms of the actual, physical side of the production, she's just sort of left that part to me knowing that we both know what we want."

Andrews explained that her decision to also direct the burgeoning musical stems from "the fact that I knew the piece very well, having written it… I kind of knew, I hoped, where it was going and what I'd like to see. So it was a very easy thing, and I think that the Goodspeed people hoped that I would. It was sort of part of the understanding that it would be developed and that I would direct it."

The Academy Award winner for her performance in "Mary Poppins" and Tony nominee for her work in My Fair Lady, Camelot and Victor/Victoria said she believes her work as an actress helps inform her directorial choices. "[There is] a great deal of understanding in where the actor is coming from and what they are bringing to it. And, then, I think allowing them and being the eyes and ears for them up front and making them, hopefully, as great as they can be." Andrews, in fact, has nothing but praise for her cast, including Tony nominee Emily Skinner, who heads the company as the diva Adelaide. "[She is] wonderful," Andrews exclaimed. "She is superb in this piece. She is very, very professional — very intelligent about her character — and I was going to say she hasn't put a 'foot' wrong, but I could say she hasn't put a paw wrong!"

Watching the first public performance of The Great American Mousical, though, Andrews said with a laugh, "was like giving birth! I was so nervous that you can't believe — for [the cast]. This is on the Goodspeed second stage at this point, so it was right down to the wire, and Hurricane Sandy had delayed us in the scene shops for quite a few days, and we were barely ready. And, of course, much of the audience knew that … Nevertheless, it was biting-nails time, but the company came through magnificently. I was so very proud of them."

Noah E. Galvin in The Great American Mousical,
photo by Diane Sobolewski

Audiences, she added, have been reacting "wonderfully! We've been getting standing ovations, and we've been extended a week in the theatre… It is good, and a lot of people are coming down to see it — not quite sure where this goes from here, but I'm just thrilled with it so far. I think we all know there are maybe a couple of things that need to be tweaked and made even better, but I'm quite satisfied with it at this point." Because the work is being mounted on Goodspeed's developmental stage, changes can be incorporated throughout the run. "We've changed the ending a little bit, and we've added dialogue and deleted dialogue and tightened it — the usual things. It's a lot like being out of town, but we stay in one place," Andrews said.

Choosing a favorite moment in the new musical is difficult for "The Sound of Music" star because "there are several!… It depends whether it's very funny or very endearing… There are moments that are both. I think the whole piece is an homage to Broadway musicals and to the theatre — to the great shows that we know and love. When these kind of endearing mice do the best they can to reproduce their version of something that they've seen on the big stage above them… everything that they do is an attempted recreation of what they've seen, and of course, being mice, it's funny and sweet and endearing. But it's definitely meant to be a loving, warm gesture to the shows that we love."