Every year or six it’s important to leave New York—one can only stand so much of $7 cereal and the G train, after all. Last week I took one such sojourn to my brother’s college graduation in Boulder, Colorado. Here, I thought, was my chance to leave behind Mr. Man Hattan. To clear the head. To consider—very briefly—matters beyond the footlights. Sure, Sondheim’s “Our Time” might flit through my mind at The Big Event, but that moment would pass, and I would soon be thinking on, well, whatever it is non-theater people think on.
And then I learned that the graduation speaker was to be Julie Andrews.
At first I thought I was being had. “Right,” I said to myself. “Julie Andrews? Who’s her date, Richard Burton? Rex Harrison?”
But the joke was on me: Apparently Dame Julie had some connection to the University, and, in a remarkable coup, had been roped into delivering the annual basket of “go get ‘em” pleasantries.
(The theater will find you, people, even if you fly four hours to the foothills of the Flatiron Range. It will find you.)
Graduation morning dawned blue and overture-worthy. Walking towards the ceremony, to be held in the football stadium, I glanced up at the mountains that cradled the city and I wondered—was Julie up there, crooning “The Hills Are Alive”? Or, I considered, passing the marijuana shops, was she there, selling loverly “flowers”? In other words, was it a Sound of Music day or a My Fair Lady day? A Victor/Victoria morning or a Boy Friend one? Which Julie were we going to get?
Silly me. An hour later, as Julie ascended to her throne/podium, the answer became clear: Today was a Camelot day, and Julie, oh Julie, was our beloved Guinevere. How could it be otherwise? It was, you see, a cheery morn in this Lusty Month of May.
“I LOVE YOU JULIE,” someone screamed from the crowd as we rose to our feet. We love you, too, our hoots concurred. We love you too!
Who knew the Colorado set was so discerning?
“Thank you,” she said, quieting the crowd, “thank you.” Then—
It’s all a Julie blur. Sorry.
There was something about overcoming adversity (egregiously overlooked! the botched operation!) and the importance of the arts, as well as brilliant lines about “my signature turn” and how “the hills truly are alive with the class of 2013,” but I was too taken with her regal poise and the mere Fact of Julie Andrews to remember much more.
Because here’s the thing about Ms. Andrews: Girl knows how to work a crowd. Seriously. Though you’ll never meet a more gentlewomanly creature on God’s green earth, Julie owned us with the strength of an iron fist—a fist draped in dainty blue satin sashes, but a fist, nonetheless. Never once was our applause allowed to get in the way of her message, never once were we anywhere but the uber-competent palm of her hand.
Such control is a miracle to behold, and renders message almost irrelevant. The way she said what she said was the meaning of what she said. Not to get all modernistic… but it really was.
So thanks, Julie. Thanks for spoiling my theater hiatus. I’m not going to spout that line about the world, and how it’s a stage—not gonna do it—but such, it seems, is the truth. You can’t, it seems, escape the theater.
And if Julie Andrews is involved, it turns out, you won’t want to.