LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Nearly five decades after she breezed into the lives of Jane, Michael and the millions of people who will forever remember her as Mary Poppins, singer Julie Andrews will take to the stage in London.
The Oscar-winning 74-year-old star of “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music” will feature in “The Gift of Music,” her first concert on a London stage in 30 years and more than a dozen years since surgery on her vocal cords robbed her of a singing voice that was practically perfect in every way.
The show at the O2 center in southeast London on Saturday is expected to contain performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics, clips, memories and songs of great musical theater to the accompaniment of the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and conductor Ian Fraser.
“To perform once again in my homeland on the London stage will be a wonderful moment -- it is where it all began for me, and I am so excited to be able to share a brand new work with audiences,” Andrews said in a statement on the O2 website.
Five West End and Broadway performers will join Andrews on stage to help her take the audience on a nostalgic trip through old favorites including songs from The Sound of Music, “The King and I,” “South Pacific” and “Carousel.”
Andrews will also narrate a live version of “Simeon’s Gift,” the best-selling children’s book she wrote with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton.
The singer’s career has encompassed stage and film with performances as the nanny to the Banks children and the wayward novice Maria right through to her most recent projects, “The Princess Diaries,” “Shrek” films and “Eloise at the Plaza.”
She told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper that audiences should be prepared for a changed voice after surgery on her vocal cords in 1997.
“I don’t sing the way I used to, so I‘m doing everything I can to put the word out that they shouldn’t expect that,” she said. “I hope I’ll have a few surprises up my sleeve for the concert, but basically I have about five good bass notes and I can work my way around them pretty well.”
Despite that, Andrews considers her rough-and-tumble show business upbringing has given her the emotional strength to help see her through the dark times in life.
Her first major appearance and London debut was at the Hippodrome in 1947 in a vaudeville act with her mother and stepfather, and she quickly became the family breadwinner.
“I was raised never to carp about things and never to moan, because in vaudeville, which is my background, you just got on with it through all kinds of adversities.”
And the singer considers herself fortunate to have had such a successful and long lasting career.
“All careers go up and down like friendships, like marriages, like anything else, and you can’t bat a thousand all the time. So I think I’ve been very, very lucky.”
Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Steve Addison