You couldn’t ask for a better acting coach than Julie Andrews.
Throughout her 70-year career, the British icon has created indelible characters on stage (My Fair Lady, Camelot), screen (“Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music”) and the page (“The Very Fairy Princess” children’s books, co-written with daughter Emma Walton Hamilton). Now Andrews, 81, is sharing her passion for the arts on Netflix with “Julie’s Greenroom” (which began streaming Friday), which she executive-produced with Hamilton, 54.
The Oscar-winner plays herself in the educational kids’ show, teaching a group of child puppets known as “Greenies” (created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) about the fundamentals of theater, including singing, dancing, improv and costumes. She gets a helping hand from her assistant, Gus (Giullian Yao Gioiello), and a myriad of guest stars in the 13-episode series.
Andrews and Hamilton break down some of the most memorable visitors to the “Greenroom.”
The “Frozen” actress pops in for the first episode to introduce the Greenies to different types of plays and invite them on a field trip to Broadway’s “Wicked,” for which she won a best-actress Tony Award playing the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba. Menzel “is such an arts advocate herself,” Hamilton says. “She runs this wonderful outreach program for urban girls (“A Broader Way”), providing them with the means through the arts to find their voices, so that was just a natural fit.” Plus, “I do not know one kid that isn’t singing Frozen,” Andrews says.
“Saturday Night Live’s” Donald Trump impersonator-in-chief sheds the blond comb-over to teach the Greenies about acting and share a song with Andrews. “He was very proud to be singing,” she says. “He had just finished a duet with Barbra Streisand (for her album, “Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway”), so I had heavy competition.” The original tune “is a tribute to what you do when you act, and we keep topping each other. It’s great fun. He’s brilliant in it, because he’s a wonderful impersonator anyway, so he’s suddenly doing one character and then another and another, and explaining how you can be anything when you act.”
The Brave singer — making her Broadway debut March 31 in “Waitress,” which she scored — comes to the greenroom in an episode to teach the students about lyrics and songwriting. “She’s a lovely lady,” Andrews says. Adds Hamilton: “The song that she teaches them and sings on the show ended up being the theme song for the whole series; it’s so great. The idea is that they write this song with her help.”
David Hyde Pierce
The “Frasier” alum appears in the season’s penultimate episode, “The Mess Rehearsal,” in which he leads the Greenies’ last dress rehearsal before the curtain goes up. “That’s one of my favorite episodes because of his dry humor,” Hamilton says. “It’s a classic trope in the theater that the final rehearsal before opening night is a disaster. It’s good luck.” Adds Andrews: “If you have a good dress rehearsal, it doesn’t bode well for the opening.” Pierce “was a lovely man to work with. He is so funny.”
The Emmy-winning comedy icon (and Hamilton’s godmother) is the only “Greenroom” guest star to play a character: Mrs. Edna Brightful, a wealthy theater patron who stops by in the season finale. “She is coming to assess the production and the theater to see if it’s worthy of a grant from her esteemed foundation,” Hamilton says. “She’s also a secret theaterphile who dreams of being onstage.” Burnett is “a great friend and it was an absolute natural ask on my part,” Andrews says. “I couldn’t think of anyone better. Hopefully if the show gets picked up [for Season 2], she’ll be back.”
Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY