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Review: Julie, Madly, Deeply at Liverpool Theatre Festival ****

In the week when we've lost real royalty, Julie, Madly, Deeply – written and performed by Sarah-Louise Young - gives the Liverpool Theatre Festival audience a chance to share their admiration for another undisputed queen…of the musical.

As the song tells us, there ain’t nothing like a dame. And certainly not if that dame is Julie Andrews, Oscar-wielding star of stage and screen and inspiration for a thousand fancy-dress singalongs.

Last year the versatile Young brought her brilliantly bonkers An Evening Without Kate Bush to the festival. In fact, she reprised the show in the city last night, but this time in the drier and warmer surroundings of the Phil’s Music Room).

And Julie, Madly, Deeply is another joyful celebration of a modern-day icon, spinning giddily like a nun on an Austrian mountain top as it highlights fragments of Andrews’ life and career, from precocious child singer with a four octave range to global superstar silenced by a disastrous throat operation.

It’s not so much an impersonation (although Young delivers an uncanny vocal impression of the mature Andrews’ warm transatlantic speaking tones) as a gossipy homage to the girl born Julia Elizabeth Wells in leafy Walton-on-Thames 87 years ago this October.

Characters flit in and out of the song-filled revue-style narrative, including Andrews’ rackety mum and showbiz stepdad, an early singing teacher, various exasperated theatrical directors and a naughtily accurate take off of Audrey Hepburn.

Occasionally the show becomes a bit rackety too, Young veering a touch too far off piste or getting bogged down in a peripheral characterisation.

Above: Sarah-Jane Young and MD Michael Roulston in Julie, Madly, Deeply. Top: Sarah-Jane Young. Photos by David Munn

But in general, it’s all so warm-heartedly done that it’s only a Sound of Music-loathing curmudgeon who would fail to find pleasure in it.

Musical director Michael Roulston meanwhile offers jaunty support on keyboard as well as double-act comic moments and some pleasing vocal harmonising.

And as with her Kate Bush show (and with echoes of the public’s tributes to the Queen which have filled the airwaves this weekend), Young also breaks the fourth wall to encourage audience members to share their own Andrews-related anecdotes and memories, including from the near-legendary Liverpool dance teacher Norah Button who not only saw a young Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady in the West End some 60 years ago but went backstage too.

In fact, at heart it's all about the shared experience - those songs and characters that have defined Andrews’ career have also in many ways shaped our own lives from childhood onwards.

And they’re simply Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.


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