Sound Of Julie Review

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On the eve of her 19th birthday, Julie Andrews made her debut on Broadway. The New York opening of the London hit “The Boy Friend” would signal the arrival of a major star on the American shores. Andrews’ performance launched a musical career that spanned over 40 years, until it was literally cut short by the slip of a surgeon’s knife that left her unable to ever sing again. But that career, which began when she was a young girl in England and would encompass stage, screen, records, concerts and television, provides the ingredients from which Laura Freeman cooks up one of the tastiest cabaret treats ever heard by these ears – or that has ever moved this heart – “The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Julie.”

What Freeman does so brilliantly here is construct a “tribute” show that isn’t the standard, “And then she sang blah, blah, blah.” Oh, no. While Freeman does give us a wonderfully researched and heartfelt account of Andrews’ life and career, it’s what she does with Andrews’ music that elevates this sensational offering. And this is most true in the segment devoted to “My Fair Lady.” Freeman’s account of the backstage history of the 1957 production is, by itself, fascinating; but it’s her placement and reinterpretation of the musical’s songs within that context that holds us riveted. On the edges of our seats? Absolutely.

Freeman couples her intoxicating voice – the warmth of her lower register, the beauty of those glorious high notes – with her instantly enticing personality and takes us on a ride that has us laughing hysterically (You’re So London, from Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, with a personal touch added; the raucous duet with musical director Beckie Menzie on The Lonely Goatherd) and clutching our hearts to keep them from breaking (the mesmerizing Crazy World, given a whole new meaning when used as counterpoint to the end of Andrews’ singing career; the pairing of Mary Poppins’ Stay Awake with Darling Lili’s Whistling In the Dark).

Peppered in throughout Freeman’s remarkable performance and striking minglings are the diverse roles of 

The Boy Friend/Thoroughly Modern Millie, the story of young Julie interwoven with Don’t Put Your Daughter On the Stage, Mrs. Worthington, Freeman revealing her own insecurities in I Have Confidence and the escape both Cinderella and a young Freeman found In My Own Little Corner.

The originality Freeman brings to what are some of the best-known songs is exceptional, her turn of a phrase or slight altering of a melody giving them new life, and she’s got strong support from Menzie’s inventive and lush arrangements. Add in Freeman’s beautiful voice and her engaging personality, and what is truly blessed by the sound of this music? We are. Oh, boy, how we are. (****)

Laura Freeman performs “The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Julie” on Sunday, May 23, at Prospect Heights Public Library, 12 N. Elm St., Prospect Heights. Reservations are highly recommended. 847-259-3500 or

Gay Chicago Magazine

, Critique Corner, Issue #10-20

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