Julie Madly Deeply
Reviewed – 20th December 2021
“Feel-good entertainment this is, and in the hands of talented performers — it works”
True confession: I must admit that I arrived at this show (after some difficulty finding the Park Theatre due to the new (improved) area around Finsbury Park Station) a sceptic. Julie, Madly, Deeply? Two hours of Julie Andrews’ impressions? Fan of Dame Julie though I am, it still seemed like a stretch for one performer (Sarah-Louise Young) and her accompanist (Michael Roulston) to bring off. I am delighted to report that this sceptic left the theatre two and a half hours later — a convert.
Julie, Madly, Deeply (directed by Russell Lucas) is easy on the ears. It is easy on the eyes as well, since Sarah-Louise Young is a talented mimic who can make you believe she really looks like Julie Andrews (and even Audrey Hepburn). Young is also an accomplished singer (no surprises there) and accompanist Michael Roulston plays beautifully (and, on occasion, sings quite nicely as well). All the favourites from Dame Julie’s long and brilliant career are featured. But Young’s rendition of “Could I Leave You” from Follies was, for me at least, the standout song of the evening. The moment of tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim was poignantly and beautifully done. In Julie, Madly, Deeply the songs are delivered with an appropriately sharp wit. It does not seem out of place, especially when you consider how fearless and edgy Julie Andrews herself became, after she got together with movie director Blake Edwards.
There are always challenges to dramatizing the life of a famous person. If you want to be truthful as well as entertaining, you have to acknowledge the tragedies as well as the triumphs. Sarah-Louise Young doesn’t sugar coat Julie Andrews’ tough childhood (the absent mother; the alcoholic step-father, who also discovered her talent) and growing up as the family breadwinner. Young focuses on the important part: that Dame Julie is an extraordinary talent who has been performing on world famous stages since she was nine years old. Young doesn’t dwell on the personal tragedies in adulthood, either, because Julie, Madly, Deeply should have happy ending, right? To their great credit, Young, Roulston and Lucas do pull off the happy ending—by bringing us right back to where the show began: Young as a star struck Julie Andrews’ fan writing a letter to her idol. It doesn’t matter whether Dame Julie replied—what matters is the moment we can all identify with—a touching tribute to a great star, and a wish from a would be performer, to be like that star. In Julie, Madly, Deeply, the audience is warmly invited to sing along with all their favourite Julie Andrews’ songs, and to share their memories of seeing Dame Julie in person. Feel-good entertainment this is, and in the hands of talented performers — it works.
Julie, Madly, Deeply is perfect for those who feel unable—understandably during a pandemic—to brave the bigger, and riskier, theatres of London’s West End. The Park Theatre is not only smaller, but both cast and crew will welcome you in and make you feel as safe as is possible in these difficult times. So get your jabs on, mask up, and go over to Finsbury Park, for a delightful trip down Memory Lane.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Steve Ullathorne
Julie Madly Deeply
Park Theatre until 1st January
Previously reviewed at this venue: