Thursday, April 14, 2011

Disneyland Comic Helped Launch Julie Andrews' Singing Career

Julie Andrews and Wally Boag reunited at the Golden Horseshoe Revue, Disneyland in 1963.
Every one of the many thousands who have seen Wally Boag go through his gun-shooting, teeth-popping, balloon-blowing act in Disneyland's Golden Horseshoe Revue will agree this is a mighty accomplished young man.

But how many people know Wally's greatest accomplishment? Fifteen years ago he pointed to a slight little girl among the audience in the vast London Hippodrome and invited her up to the stage. It was all part of the act, but no one was ready for the brilliantly clear tones of the aria the little girl sang.

For she was Julie Andrews, aged 12, and — quite accidentally — this was her first day as a performer. She was immediately signed to a run-of-the-show contract and thus launched on a fabulous career that would bring her to the world's attention as the delightful Miss Liza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady"; as Lady Guinevere in "Camelot," and ultimately as the beloved English nanny and in the title role of Walt Disney's musical motion picture, "Mary Poppins."

Julie was born in Walton-on-Thames, a little town near London. Her parents' divorce when she was very young brought her a step-father who would soon determine she had a great voice and to see to its training. He was Ted Andrews, musician and singer. The discovery was made during World War II when Ted and Julie's pianist mother, Barbara, decided singing lessons would serve well to keep the child's mind off the conflict around them.

"I hated it — loathed it," Julie recalls, "but it was suddenly certain that I had a freak voice, with a range of four to five octaves. A throat specialist made the diagnosis. I was a child possessed of a completely adult larynx."

Julie's vocal training continued as she traveled around the province with her parents, whose musical act had made them the toast of the music halls. This backstage life gave Julie her first taste of show business, but her first professional appearance did not come until her surprise discovery in the audience of the Hippodrome.

Other revues, concert tours, guest appearances on radio and television followed, but it was while appearing in a pantomime of "Cinderella" at the London Palladium that her first big break came. She was seen there by the producer-director of the hit show, "The Boyfriend," and asked to play the lead role in the New York company. Julie's Broadway bow was a brilliant one and paved the way for her future successes. The rest is now theatrical history.

From the original Mary Poppins press materials.

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