Critical backlash at Julie Andrews’ “tragic” stage return

Dame Julie Andrews’ long-awaited return to the UK stage in a special concert performance at London’s 02 Arena has been met by a furious backlash from fans and critics, who accused the Mary Poppins star of “barely” singing at all during the show.

Stage critic Mark Shenton said that he had “seldom seen so many walkouts during the course of a show”, while there were reports on the internet of audience members attempting to get refunds in the interval.

Theatre bloggers the West End Whingers warned, in their review of the show: “Should you ever receive a gift from Julie Andrews be sure to ask for the receipt as you will almost certainly want to take it back and exchange it for something better… She didn’t sing the hell out of anything. She didn’t sing that much at all.”

Andrews was greeted on her entrance by a prolonged standing ovation, but in Shenton’s review for the Stage, he added: “The audience regularly got up out of their seats throughout the show thereafter, though sadly not so often in gratitude as to make an early exit: I’ve seldom seen so many walkouts during the course of a show, and the pace only accelerated in the second act. Not since an arena stage production of Ben Hur last year staged a series of intentional chariot crashes here have I witnessed such an unintentional pile-up of car-crash musical theatre… She sang precisely two songs in their entirety in the whole evening.”

Paul Clements, critic for the Sunday Telegraph, added: “Only the hardest hearted will be seeking a refund after Dame Julie Andrews’ first stage performance in more than a dozen years. But many will have been left wanting one… A theatrically tragic spectacle, all told. Americans are gonna love it. The rest of us should cherish recordings of Julie in her prime. This is no way to treat a national treasure, and especially not a Dame.”

Meanwhile, under a Sky News web story reporting that Andrews had “thrilled an adoring audience”, angry fans recorded their disappointment at the show, claiming that the “article gives completely the wrong impression of the evening”.

One claimed: “She ‘sang’ for about 30 seconds in the first hour by which time we were so outraged we went to attempt to get a refund”, while another commented “I have never felt so duped”.

A spokesperson for the promoters said: “Dame Julie Andrews received a standing ovation at the beginning of the evening and at the end. We will look at all complaints on a case by case basis and reply to all fans directly.”

Mark Shenton’s full review of the show will appear online and in next week’s print edition of The Stage.

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