This isn’t the first show about Julie Andrews at The Pheasantry, but it’s the first one I’ve seen (in any venue) that dispenses with any mention of the loss of her singing voice following her Broadway run in Victor/Victoria in the late Nineties. Shana Farr isn’t afraid to admit that she read up some of the details given in Whistling Away The Dark (this show) on Wikipedia and Google. She also wanted the audience to know she wasn’t attempting to emulate Andrews’ voice (as it was back in the day). Well, she didn’t try to sound like her – she just did.
Accompanied by John Webber on the piano, who glided through the varied setlist seemingly effortlessly, there was the right combination of familiar and not so familiar tunes. The narrative isn’t sugar-coated – Farr reeled off a list of Andrews’ credits that didn’t exactly have the resounding success of The Sound of Music – and there were some personal stories, too, which helped the audience get to know Farr even as we were exploring the life and times of Dame Julie Andrews.
‘Je suis Titania la blonde’ is from the 1866 French opera Mignon. It’s in this show for an interesting reason (too much of a spoiler, alas, to reveal it here, even if it is publicly available information), and was a good example of how varied Andrews’ career has been. Some of her more obscure credits were highlighted – I’d never heard of High Tor, a 1956 musical adaptation, broadcast as a television film, of a 1936 play of the same name, for instance.
Farr related ‘I Have Confidence’ from The Sound of Music to her own experiences, common to a lot of performers, who don’t, however incredible they may be on stage, always feel they are up to doing what they are definitely competent at: “My heart should be wildly rejoicing / Oh, what’s the matter with me?” Andrews had been subjected to some one-on-one rehearsals after much of the rest of the company in a production she was in didn’t have confidence in her. Farr had a similar experience and was asked to repeat scenes an exorbitant number of times by a director who seemed to live by the maxim that practice makes perfect.
Then there were the tunes the audience couldn’t help but sing along to – the stuff of ‘Feed The Birds’ from Mary Poppins (Walt Disney’s favourite, we were reliably informed), ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ from My Fair Lady and the title number from The Sound of Music. It’s a bold move for a performer from the States to come over to London with a show about Julie Andrews: the phrase ‘selling coal to Newcastle’ comes to mind. But it held my attention throughout and it was one of those shows that was over far too soon. A pleasant and delightful experience.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Shana Farr is back with her 5-star tribute show to Julie Andrews that has been performed all over the U.S. and in London. Inspired by the rich collection of lyrics and melodies that have become synonymous with Julie Andrews, award-winning songstress, Shana Farr weaves together an evening of songs that represent not only great American standards by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, the Gershwins, and the Sherman Brothers, but also beautiful numbers by Henry Mancini, Arthur Schwartz, Jimmy van Heusen, Noël Coward and more.
4th March (8pm) – 5th March (8pm)
The Pheasantry, 152 Kings Road, London, SW3 4UT