May 6, 2021

VRHS Student Interviews Julie Andrews

Valley Regional High School student Laura Harkness recently had the opportunity to interview Julie Andrews about her new book that is being turned into a musical “The Great American Mousical.” She talked to her about the inspiration behind the book and what she likes about working with Goodspeed and in particular, The Norma Terris Theater.

Q: When you were writing your book, was it your intention to be a musical?

A: No, not at all. The reason being, at the time I couldn’t conceive how it could’ve been a musical. I think in the best of all possible worlds, maybe it could’ve been an animated film. But I never thought of it being a live musical for the theatre, even though it is a book about theatre. And we sent the book as a gift to Mr. Micheal Price at Goodspeed Musicals (Executive Director) and Mr. Alwine at Goodspeed Musicals (Associate Producer) and to our astonishment, from this gift, within 48 hours they came back and said, ‘We’d love to acquire the rights and develop it for the theater as a musical.’ And the difficulty in adapting it for the stage is the perspective issue. It is about a group of performing mice who have their own theater beneath the boards of a great Broadway theater. So how do you have actors playing mice and make it believable and get the audience to accept that? So, it’s one of the reasons that we never thought of it as being possible, and all of a sudden here we are just about to start rehearsals tomorrow!

Q: Are you excited for that?

A: Yes, very and quite thrilled with what we do have. Because we now have a new scene developed and a script for the musical by a lovely guy called Hunter Bell who has done a such honor by developing some of the characters; more than we could’ve ever have hoped. And then the music and the lyrics, the music is by Zina Goldrich and the lyrics are by a lady called Marcy Heisler and they’ve done us proud.

Q: What was the inspiration for the book?

A: Something quite silly! I was performing on Broadway and somebody announced that there was a live mouse in the wardrobe department. I suggested that instead of a killer trap, that they could have a heart trap (a humane trap) it in the wardrobe department and maybe they would be kind to carry the mouse out and deposit it somewhere far, far away. And they were realizing, of course, that Broadway in general is riddled with mice below the boards of any theater. But this one little mouse I just said, ‘Oh please, dear, look after him! Take it away.’ And then somebody said, jokingly, ‘He probably came up to see the stars above the stage!’ And a light bulb went off my head, and I go, ‘That would be the best idea for a middle grade novel!’ So, I began to write it with my daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. And in the end result, here we are! It was written about 7 years ago and acquired about certainly 6 years ago.

Q: You’ve written other books with her, your daughter…

A: Yes. I’ve written, to date, about 22 with her and other 5 just coming out soon.

Q: Oh really! That’s exciting!

A: Yeah thank you!

Q: Yeah, that’s so cool. So, what’s it like to write with her?

A: A joy, an absolute joy. It would be as if I’m sitting across from you, and you were once this high (measures two feet off of the ground), and now I’m talking with my daughter as an absolute full grown woman with her own talent and her own thoughts of humor. We are very compatible. We finish each other’s sentences when we write like, ‘I was just going to say that!’ That kind of thing.

We laugh a lot, we drink a lot of tea together, and we’ve never had an argument. We have different strengths and the best idea wins in our opinion. So if we might have a discussion about something, there’s this sort of unspoken feeling that if each other one of us is most passionate about an issue is probably right.

Q: Out of all of the places, you chose Chester, CT. Why did you choose this town?

A: Well first of all, this is the second stage for the Goodspeed Musicals, this lovely Norma Terris Theater in Chester. Since Mrs. Price and Mr. Alwine acquired the rights here. This is also one of the rare few theaters where you can get something up on its feet and it isn’t judged. The audience knows that it’s a work in progress. So this allows us here, that rare opportunity of developing something that we hope is going to be terrific, and we feel it is. But it allows us to find out what we have in that speaks, so to speak.

Q: Okay, I have one last question. Do you have any advice for aspiring singers and writers, such as myself?

A: Yeah, I do. I’ve been asked that question a lot.

Q: Oh yeah, I bet.

A: And that is, if you’re passionate about what you do, then go for it wholeheartedly. Be prepared that if anytime, you may be surprised by a phenomenal opportunity that may come your way, and that’s when I say, do your homework. Be ready. Because you never know when something’s going to be offered to you and you say, ‘Oh my gosh!’ So in other words, be prepared to go.

Q: Thank you so much! Thank you.

A: Oh, you’re welcome.