Veteran star of screen and stage, Julie Andrews forever changed the world of family cinema with her unforgettable performances in classics like The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. But her Broadway roots inspired her latest book, The Great American Mousical, which she co-wrote with daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. This is a sweet and funny tale that introduces children ages 6 to 8 to the world of musical theater. Here, Andrews shares her motivation for bringing the stage to the page.Q: How was it working with your daughter on another children's book?
A: It was particularly wonderful to work on this book because it's sort of right in our own backyard, so to speak. [Her daughter Emma is a founder and co-artistic director of The Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, NY.] It's about theater and hopefully will intrigue young children into being interested in the theater. We tried to inform as much as we entertain in terms of the story, and it's been a joy to write together.
Q: This book incorporates two passions you share with your daughter: children's literature and theater. What inspired you to write this book now?
A: It's a very simple thing: I was in Victor, Victoria on Broadway and in fact, we had a little mouse in the wardrobe department that was running a little wild. I made a suggestion that we use a humane trap to save the mouse. It's pretty well-known that a great many of the theaters on Broadway -- in the basements -- are riddled with mice. So suddenly this light bulb went off in my head and I thought, "What a wonderful idea for a children's book about a troupe of performing mice that glean everything they can from the theater above them and put on their own shows." And that's how the book began.
Q: Do you think that kids today, with all the advances in technology like computers and video games, are missing out on the benefits of live entertainment?
A: I think there's a tendency to that. There's a place for television and there's a place for all the electronic things in our lives, but they do, if you're not careful, invite you to sit and just watch. And they don't ask you to be involved or absorbed. In other words, you just look at it and don't become involved with it, and I think that's why theater is so important for children. I'm happy to do anything I can do -- and I'm sure I speak for most of my theater colleagues -- to keep promoting live theatre.
Q: Do you see yourself in any of the characters in your book? Is there any Adelaide [the diva star] in you?
A: Well, it's such fun to invent them all -- and of course the Diva tickles me because she's a take on all the theatrical divas that one's heard about -- not necessarily met, by the way! But yes, she does tickle me. There's the ing?nue, the character actor, the stage manager, the producer, the director -- it's the hierarchy of the theater that we weave into our story.
Q: Besides seeing mice in theaters, did you use any other real-life experiences to write your book?
A: Just everything one's ever known about a dress rehearsal and how disastrous it is before opening night. I think the theme of the story, which is summed up at the end, is how amazing it is that something so small as a mouse could alter the fate of a really beautiful Broadway theater. We're making a very small comment on the fact that theater is important and we shouldn't ignore the value of some of the great theaters. We should preserve, honor, and love them.
Q: You've been associated with timeless classics that have never lost their appeal with children, like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Do you ever get tired of children associating you with Mary and Maria?
A: Oh my gosh, no! They've brought so much pleasure to so many people -- including me! I'm the lucky lady who got asked to play those wonderful roles and I would never in any way get tired of it. I'm enormously proud that I was asked to do them!
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