How Maria solved the problem of no longer being able to sing

How Maria solved the problem of no longer being able to sing

DO-RE-mi-fa-so-la-ti … ! Dame Julie Elizabeth Andrews, 77, is making her first journey to Australia and theatres will be alive with the sound of … reminiscence.

Australians will finally get to see Andrews in person on a five-city tour, accompanied by Nicholas Hammond, her US-born, Australian-based co-star in The Sound of Music (he played Friedrich), 48 years since that 1965 movie made Andrews a mother figure the world over.

On stage ... Julie Andrews performs in London.

On stage ... Julie Andrews performs in London.

Photo: Getty Images

Fifty years since Mary Poppins first brought her to the world's attention, and then after roles in The Princess Diaries movies introduced her to a new generation, how could it possibly have taken her almost a lifetime to get here?

''Well, I'm astounded too,'' said Andrews, who still lives in the Long Island, New York home she shared with her late husband, the director Blake Edwards. ''Honestly, about five or six times I've come very, very close to coming and for any number of reasons, something's always come up.

''It's not going to happen this time. I'm very excited about it.''


The very British Andrews will come for what she calls a series of ''wonderful speaking engagements'' in Brisbane on May 18, then Perth on May 21, Sydney on May 24, Adelaide on May 28 and Melbourne on May 31.

Unlike her 2010 concert at London's O2 Arena, An Evening With Julie Andrews, in which a chorus sang and Andrews burst into My Funny Valentine, (The Guardian described her voice as ''fragile and a little abraded … ''), the star has accepted that she should no longer sing.

In 1997, what should have been routine throat surgery to remove nodules was botched, harming Andrews's voice.

''I don't think I'll be bringing singers with me because I won't be singing, and I want to be very clear about that,'' she said. ''I'll be showing a lot of [filmed] singing and maybe talk about that but I won't be physically singing because the truth is I can't these days.''

Andrews said the surgery ''was pretty devastating, as you can imagine, but, while I was waiting to see if the damage was permanent or not, that's when the writing of books came forefront to me''.

Andrews has written a series of successful children's books with one of her daughters, Emma Walton Hamilton, and has more recently turned to directing The Great American Mousical.

''I was talking to Emma one day about my voice, and she said: 'You've just found a different way of using your voice through writing these books'. It was an enormously comforting thing for her to have said.''

Does Andrews mind being seen as a mother figure? She laughed. ''No I don't. I never put down those movies, because they gave me an enormous amount of pleasure as well as a lot of other people.''

Steve Dow

Steve Dow is an arts writer for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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