Despite an obsession with Julie Andrews, British performer Sarah-Louise Young is still a star in her own right.
Who can talk about the prolific career of Julie Andrews without mentioning the well-loved Mary Poppins and The Sound Of Music?
For those who are fans of her more recent works – she’s Queen Clarisse Renaldi in The Princess Diaries and voices Gru’s mother, Marlena, in the 2010 animation sensation, Despicable Me.
Andrews started young: She appeared on the West End when she was just 13 (around this time she was also appearing in stage work alongside her parents) and made her Broadway debut just six years later in a 1954 production of The Boy Friend.
With such an impressive list of accolades, it is not surprising that her roles in lesser-known works are often overlooked.
But in British cabaret performer and writer Sarah-Louise Young’s My Favourite Things – she is a huge fan of Andrews – there just might be a glimpse into this facet of Andrews’ life and career.
“In researching the show I discovered many films I didn’t know about, like Star! which did very badly at the box office, but which I adore – and her collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, which was news to me,” says Young, who has been in the cabaret scene in Britain for over a decade.
Her shows have received rave reviews, played to sell-out runs and brought her abroad to New York, Berlin, Australia (for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival) – and now, Malaysia.
Young will be in Kuala Lumpur this weekend to perform The English Tongue (a celebration of English songwriting, with a focus on great lyricists like Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim) followed by My Favourite Things the week after.
She comments that many people think of Andrews as “a prude, or stiff upper-lip Brit”, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“She is a clown and does comedy very well!” she declares.
My Favourite Things is based on Young’s West End show, Julie Madly Deeply, which is about the life of Andrews.
“It is like a concert performance of a bigger theatre piece, an affectionate love letter to Dame Julie Andrews. (Andrews was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 for services to the performing arts.) I sing lots of familiar songs but hopefully there will be a few surprises in there too,” says Young in an e-mail interview.
Julie Madly Deeply has been on tour for the past year and a half, starting in Australia and then moving to Britain, including a West End run.
“It will be my first time in Malaysia and the first time I will have performed this concert version of the show,” she says.
“I would love to bring the full version of the show out one day, but for now it will be fun finding out how my Malaysian audience know Julie, and getting to know a new and exciting place. I am a big foodie so am looking forward to discovering some new tastes, too.”
Commenting that she does a lot of different work as an actress and singer – Young also writes her own songs – this is the first time she focused on other people’s writing.
“I don’t impersonate Julie Andrews – who could? But I’ve always been a big fan and want to share that with other fans.
“The show isn’t a tribute act, it’s more a celebration of her life and career and the amazing songs she sang. Nobody’s life can be condensed into 60 minutes, let alone an international star, so it was hard to know what to keep and what to cut,” she says of the show.
Young grew up in a household of four older brothers, whom she describes as being “very funny and great storytellers”.
“So I had a lot to entertain me growing up, as well as being party to their jokes, which were sometimes about me!” she recalls.
Young and her brothers were regulars at Shakespeare productions held at universities.
“My mother is an English teacher, and although we didn’t have much money, she took us all to these university productions for which I am very grateful.”
She sang a lot at school, but it was during her university days that she began to develop her voice as a writer and performer, she relates.
Coincidentally, The Sound Of Music, starring Christopher Plummer as Gaptain Georg von Trapp and Andrews as Maria von Trapp, was a family staple during Christmas each year.
“Like many children, The Sound Of Music was part of my family Christmas, except my four older brothers were not so keen on it. So one of my best childhood memories was finally getting to watch the whole film, by myself, uninterrupted!”
> The English Tongue (May 23-25) and My Favourite Things (May 30-June 1) will be showing at Intimate Encounters at Theatre Lounge Cafe (B1-3A, Plaza Damas 3, Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur). Shows are at 9pm daily with a cover charge of RM100. For details, call 012-236 9100 or 03-6211 3000 or visit theatreloungecafe.com.