By Christopher Arnott
1:15 PM EST, December 5, 2012
The Great American Mousical
Through Dec. 9, The Norma Terris Theatre, 33 North Main St., Chester, goodspeed.org
In the 1960s comedy Bedazzled, Julie Andrews' name is invoked like an incantation. Instead of "Abracadabra," it's "Juuullllie Annnndrews!"
The name has certainly been magical for Goodspeed musicals. In 2003, Andrews made her debut as a stage director at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, N.Y., with a revival of the show in which she had made her Broadway debut as an actress in 1954, The Boy Friend. That theater was co-founded by Andrews' daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. Julie's first husband and Emma's dad, award-winning designer Tony Walton, did the sets and costumes. When the show was restaged at the Goodspeed Opera House in 2005, it led to a national tour of The Boy Friend and fresh acclaim for Julie Andrews.
Andrews is one of the foremost stars of stage and screen musicals — from Camelot to Victor Victoria on Broadway and from The Sound of Music to Mary Poppins in the movies (with dozens of notable projects in between, from her routines with Carol Burnett to the snide Hollywood satire S.O.B.). In recent years, she's revealed other talents. In 2006, while her production of The Boy Friend was still touring around the country, Julie Andrews published a children's book she'd cowritten, The Great American Mousical. It was about the backstage adventures of a troupe of stagestruck rodents. First editions are now a collector's item, and the book is now part of a three-volume "Julie Andrews Collection" which has given the actress a new career as a children's author.
Julie Andrews' worlds combine, now that The Great American Mousical has been turned into a stage musical, having its world premiere production at — where else? — the Goodspeed. It plays not at the Goodspeed's main space in East Haddam but at the Norma Terris Theatre in nearby Chester, where Goodspeed puts most of its new musical endeavors, especially premieres and more intimate shows like this one. Even before it opened, the demand for tickets caused the Goodspeed to extend the show's run to Dec. 9.
At the Goodspeed, the mice are played by people wearing whiskered noses and ropey tails. They hold the tails aloft when they dance. They sing of family and friendship and making sure the show goes on.
The team assembled to make sure The Great American Mousical is indeed great bears a close resemblance to the one that made The Boy Friend a success. And Julie Andrews is again directing.
It's a musical about the many interesting relationships you find behind the scenes at a theater show, presented by those who know what they're writing about, even though they're not mice.
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