Sarah-Louise Young discusses her new cabaret show Julie Madly Deeply
Over the years, people have often said to Sarah-Louise Young that they can see a bit of Julie Andrews in her.
“It’s probably just because we’re both very well spoken,” says the British musical theatre and cabaret performer in her crisp, beautifully enunciated English accent.
Modesty aside, Young also has a great singing voice and though she wouldn’t consider comparing herself to Andrews – “that would be scandalous” – she is excited about performing the Andrews songbook in a new cabaret show called Julie Madly Deeply.
The songs will be intertwined with stories and anecdotes from Andrews’ life along with “a selection of witty and insightful elaborations” as the press release puts it, promising a show in which “Miss Squeaky-Clean finally comes clean.”
But Andrews fans can rest assured that though Julie Madly Deeply may be a little mischievous at times, it comes from a place of love.
“It’s always been our benchmark that if she ever came to see the show she would love it. We are describing it as a cheeky and affectionate love letter,” says Young.
Julie Madly Deeply starts its Australian tour at the Noosa Long Weekend Festival on June 16 then goes to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival followed by dates in Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
It follows in the wake of Dame Julie herself, who tours Australia for the first time this month. However, Andrews doesn’t sing anymore after her four-octave voice was damaged during a throat operation in 1997, leaving it to Young to turn on the pure but killer vocals in songs from Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady as well as less well known Andrews numbers.
Young’s cabaret career is riding high. She won Best Musical Variety Act at the 2013 London Cabaret Awards and in 2011 was named one of Time Out London’s Top Ten Cabaret Artists.
In 2010, David and Lisa Campbell brought her show Cabaret Whore to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival then toured it around Australia the following year. During this time, Young met Richard Carroll, who works at the Campbells’ production company Luckiest Productions. They hit it off and co-conceived Julie Madly Deeply, which Carroll is producing.
Young has been a fan of Andrews since childhood. “When I was a little kid my parents got divorced and I thought if Julie Andrews came in, married my Dad and made a dress from curtains then everything would be all right,” she says.
When it came to putting a show together about her, Young says they wanted to avoid doing something that comes across like “Wikipedia live. You can’t tell anybody’s life in 55 minutes, it’s just not long enough,” she says. Nor did she want to pretend to be Andrews.
“My producer Richard and I felt very strongly that nobody can sing like Julie Andrews. You can’t impersonate that voice. There is so much love and respect for her that we didn’t want to put words into her mouth.
“Obviously we’ve read her autobiography and watched hours and hours of documentaries and we thought very, very carefully about the best framing device. It would be easy to do an hour of her songs and chat about them but the device we use is that I play a Julie Andrews impersonator doing a tribute act,” says Young.
“That person can investigate other people’s relationships with Julie Andrews so I play Audrey Hepburn, Richard Burton, Carol Channing, Liza Minnelli – little bits of all of these. So there will be times when I do my best to sound like her but it’s also a lovely excuse to explore the other relationships in her life.
“We’ll sing the hits from her shows and also a few unexpected songs that you don’t associate with her. There’s such an amazing back catalogue of songs so we’re going to do a medley at the end because we just couldn’t fit in all the songs that we wanted to.”
Young believes that although Andrews tried to change her sweet, wholesome image later in her career with some interesting choices including working with Hitchcock and famously going topless in the film S.O.B. directed by her husband Blake Edwards, “it was really tough for her. People wanted to see her in that maternal role because it made us feel safe.
“She was obviously a lovely woman but it was well known that she swore like a trooper and was a great practical joker. She worked with Hitchcock, she did some really unusual and interesting stuff but people didn’t want her to break the mould.”
Young hopes that people who see Julie Madly Deeply “will fall in love with the songs again and go home and watch the movies, and question their own relationship with her.”
Noosa Long Weekend Festival, June 16; Adelaide Cabaret Festival, June 19 – 20; Chapel off Chapel, Melbourne, June 21 – 22; Karralyka Centre, Ringwood, June 25; The Q, Queanbeyan, June 26; Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs, June 29; Seymour Centre, Sydney, July 4 – 6; Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, July 7; Glen Street Theatre, Belrose, July 9.
An edited version of this story appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on April 7.