New England stories from the region's top public media newsrooms
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dame Julie Andrews directs revival of 'The Great American Mousical' in CT this summer

Julie Andrews Edwards during Julie Andrews Edwards Launches Her New Book "The Great American Mousical" - October 28, 2006 at Waterstones in London, Great Britain.
Ferdaus Shamim
WireImage via Getty Images
Julie Andrews Edwards during Julie Andrews Edwards Launches Her New Book "The Great American Mousical" - October 28, 2006 at Waterstones in London, Great Britain.

Legendary actress and singer Dame Julie Andrews has done it all in her decades-long career, including earning an Academy Award, two Emmys, three Grammys, and six Golden Globes.

She was one of the biggest box office draws in the 1960s, playing such iconic roles as Maria Von Trapp in the 1965 film adaptation of “The Sound of Music,” and the title role in the 1964 film “Mary Poppins.”

This summer, Andrews, 88, will come to Connecticut to direct “The Great American Mousical” at Branford’s Legacy Theatre.

“To have this level of celebrity icon in the performing arts in this venue, working here with our Legacy Theatre family, and for our community is indescribable, really,” said Keely Baisden Knudsen, the founder and artistic director of the Legacy Theatre.

“The Great American Mousical” is a 2012 musical by Zina Goldrich, with lyrics by Marcy Heisler. It’s based on the 2006 children’s book of the same name, written by Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. The musical had its debut at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House, directed by Andrews.

How did the Legacy Theatre, only in its fourth year of operation, manage to bring in Julie Andrews to direct a show? The answer — connections. This time, a friendship between Andrews and the Director of Development at the Legacy, Anne Runolfsson —a broadway veteran in her own right — put the Legacy on the radar screen of Andrews' creative team.

Knudsen pointed out that staging “The Great Mousical” at Legacy’s intimate, state-of-the-art proscenium stage will be a stretch for her production crew.

“It's a big show for a small regional theater,” said Knudsen. “But we did something of a similar pit size and cast size with 'Beauty and the Beast' last summer, and it went beautifully.”

“It’s a win-win. We are helping our reputation and visibility as a new theater, and at the same time, we are giving Julie Andrews’ team the chance to develop “The Great American Mousical” even further. There will be brand new orchestrations for this production. There's some new scenes. it's been in development in the last 12 years, it won't be exactly the same thing that folks have seen before.”

Currently, the Legacy and Andrew’s creative team are casting roles for the show. Knudsen said in production meetings, Andrews has been enthusiastic and gracious, and is eager to get started.

“After every production meeting, she in particular will thank me personally. Just hearing my name in that beautiful English accent is a delight,” Knudsen said. “It's a privilege for all of us, but to hear that depth of gratitude and excitement. And the team reiterates how excited she is to be doing this project at this time. Yeah, I mean, everyone's thrilled, all of us.”

Rehearsals begin June 17. Knudsen said Julie Andrews will stay in the Branford area during the rehearsal process. “The Great American Mousical” runs July 11-28 at the Legacy Theatre in Branford.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.