By Peter Filichia —
Julie Andrews played Maria von Trapp on stage two years before she started filming The Sound of Music.
Well, at least in a manner of speaking. Andrews actually portrayed a parody version of the would-be nun who became a wife and multiple mother. She was Mama Pratt in the sequence “The Pratt Family Singers” in Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall. It’s the TV special that was taped on March 5, 1962 prior to a June 11 broadcast.
In one of the great show business ironies of all time, Andrews could have had no idea that she would be mocking her most famous future role when she pretended to be the mother of no fewer than twenty children. We learn that their favorite things include “goose fat and duck fat and ham fat and lard.” Andrews chirpily delivers the line as if she were singing about twenty-four karat gold.
As for the “Carol” in the show’s title, she is, of course, Carol Burnett. Here she plays the sole Pratt daughter – Cynthia – who complains that the family’s diet of “pig’s feet and cheese” is certainly not among her favorite things.
Andrews also gets to head “Ding Dong Yum Yum Yum” the “Do Re Mi” spoof. Instead of the names of notes, the Pratts concentrate on sounds: kissing, crying, baby gibberish, et al. As delicious as the parody is, orchestrator Irwin Kostal deserves great credit for his beautifully aping of Sound of Music orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett’s use of strings in “Do Re Mi.” Listen and hear those four-note phrases ascend up the scale.
The good news is that you can indeed hear them now, because Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall has been re-released. It’s now both on compact discs and available via digital download. Better still, the recording of Julie and Carol at Lincoln Center, their 1971 reunion, is paired with it.
Low-comic Burnett had made a name for herself both on Broadway in Once upon a Mattress in the ‘50s and on TV as a staunch regular on The Garry Moore Show in the ‘60s. The combination of elegant Andrews and brass-tacks Burnett seems to be a mixture of (a gusher of) oil and (an ocean’s worth of) water. But the writers play into it by first having Burnett make an ostensible faux pas; she sings most brassily that there’ll be “No Mozart Tonight” at Carnegie Hall. Andrews chides Burnett and apologizes to the audience for this “shocking breach.” Burnett is humbled: “You’re so London,” she sings, beginning one of the best swirling waltzes a musical theater enthusiast can ever hope to hear.
By contrast, Burnett says that she’s “so San Antone.” Both assess their personae through some nifty wordplay. “You’re so pink satin slippers, and I’m so army shoes,” laments Burnett. Andrews graciously points out that Burnett’s down-to-earth qualities are refreshing: “You’re so ‘Hey, bub, where’s the ladies’ room?’ and I’m so ‘May I wash?’”
Two other lyrics are worth noting. Burnett sings, “You’re so Pall Mall, you’re so Benson and Hedges,” which illustrates just how much cigarette smoking was then a part of mainstream life. Near song’s end, they conclude, “We’ll be buddies, just like Huntley and Brinkley.” For those who don’t recognize the names, these were network TV’s first superstar news anchors, who ruled NBC’s airwaves from 1956 to 1970. Considering that CBS was broadcasting Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall, the network deserves a good bit of credit for allowing the lyric to remain.
You’d expect that the golden-throated Andrews would sing a solo, albeit not necessarily the folk song, “Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?” But the leisurely pace allows us to really listen and savor the melody, the lyric and, of course, the performance.
But would you expect Burnett to get a solo, too? Be glad she does, for “Meantime” is a marvelous song by Robert Allen and Al Stillman, the team that wrote the ‘50s hits “Chances Are,” “It’s Not for Me to Say,” “Moments to Remember,” “No, Not Much” and “Home for the Holidays.” The bolt-of-lightning ballad acknowledges that we’re on the planet for a short period of time – and that we’d better make good use of it. Allen, Stillman and Burnett certainly did.
The rest of the original material, however, was written by composer Ken Welch and lyricist Mike Nichols. Yes, the latter is indeed that same Mike Nichols, who at the time hadn’t yet embarked on a career of directing twenty Broadway shows and twenty-two films – and counting.
What’s fascinating is that Welch and Nichols had every confidence that the TV audience would get the jokes in a Sound of Music spoof, although the movie was still more than a thousand days away. This says quite a bit about the depth of knowledge the American public then had of Broadway musicals. Many had seen The Sound of Music on Broadway or on tour, but the real reason it was known was because of its original cast album. It was the nation’s number one long-playing record for sixteen consecutive weeks, en route to easy gold record status.
For that matter, the nation was also expected to understand that “The Nausiev Ballet” was a parody of The Moiseyev Ballet. Thanks to The Ed Sullivan Show – then mandatory TV watching for the entire family on Sunday nights – the television audience was well acquainted with the Russian dance troupe.
Granted, “The Nausiev Ballet” highly relied on visuals, but the spirited music carries its own potent charm. Best of all, three very famous songs from Annie Get Your Gun are very subtly included in the dance music. See if you can identify them.
You’ll have an easier time tagging the nineteen songs that make up the fabulous nine-minute-plus medley entitled “History of Musical Comedy.” Andrews and Burnett start in 1910, with “Every Little Movement” from Madame Sherry and go up to “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love” from West Side Story, which was then white-hot; by the time this show was broadcast, it had won the Best Picture Oscar.
The highlight might well be Burnett’s mocking Andrews’ Cockney accent in “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly.” Andrews lets out with an embarrassed shriek that is, by the way, the exact sound Mary Tyler Moore made when I told her that I’d seen Holly Golightly (later to be rechristened Breakfast at Tiffany’s), her disastrous Broadway musical that closed before opening night.
Perhaps Andrews, Burnett, Nichols and Welch felt that nineteen was too odd a number of show songs, so they’d make it an even twenty with their finale: “Big D” from The Most Happy Fella. Actually, the ladies had previously performed Frank Loesser’s showstopper on Garry Moore, when Andrews guest-starred on the series.
There are some extra lyrics to a verse. Although Loesser was still alive (and just about to receive the Pulitzer Prize for How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying), we can infer that Nichols and Welch wrote this material.
A Welch was involved with the Lincoln Center show, albeit not Ken, but his wife Mitzi. She, along with writers Bob Ellison and Marty Farrell, decided to use the template from the first show. Such an approach rarely results in a better product, and that was true here. Still, there are many pleasures to be had, as “You’re So London” becomes the prototype for “Our Classy, Classical Show”; Andrews’ public domain folk song choice is “He’s Gone Away”; and both ladies forge another medley, this one over fourteen minutes long.
This time, it’s not a history of musical comedy but “Medley of the ‘60s.” Is this a subtle commentary on Broadway’s not providing ‘60s audiences with enough familiar songs? You might rebut, “But there was ‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,’ ‘Aquarius,’ ‘People,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ and ‘What Kind of Fool Am I?’” Andrews and Burnett agree; they include all of them. But forty-three songs from the world of pop and Hollywood greatly outnumber the five show songs.
Now that forty to fifty years have passed, not all of these songs have retained their popularity. Really, when was the last time you heard “Put Your Hand in the Hand,” “Gentle on My Mind” or “Goin’ out of My Head”? So the medley does provide a sparkling time-travel machine.
Here’s a better question: did you ever expect to hear the grammatically meticulous Julie Andrews observe that “it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime”?