Sunday, August 14

A Spoonful of Julie – The King’s Arms, Salford

Some shows need no explanation. The title does all the work. A Spoonful of Julie delivers exactly what it says on the tin. Morsels of goodness from the life and career of one of the greatest actors and singers of all time: Dame Julie Andrews.

Opera singer Nicola Mills is the brave soul stepping into Andrews’ shoes. She’s accompanied on her whistle-stop tour of classics by musical director George Strickland on keyboard.

Andrews’ repertoire is littered with collaborations with extraordinary lyricists and composers. From the Sherman Brothers and Lerner & Loewe to Sandy Wilson and Rodgers & Hammerstein. Yet their music was taken to another level courtesy of the voice of the young woman from Surrey. Mills can certainly belt out the operatic highs but her performance lacks some of the lower, golden notes which made Andrews so unique.

Of course, it may seem a little unfair to compare. But there are moments where Mills delivers more light and shade in her vocal delivery so it’s a shame those moments are not more frequent in order to truly pay tribute to the great woman’s range.

This is an unashamedly northern act and it’s all the better for it. Mills brings her heart and soul to the stage and the audience immediately warm to her charisma and nervous energy. Some of the best moments are genuine ad libs and trips which are incredibly endearing. However, it’s not quite enough to justify a 75 minute-running time.

The fringe performance is, in fact, a shorter version of a longer two-act show. It’s unclear from this if the collection of medleys and asides could sustain.

There are a few Julie Andrews facts and stories thrown in, but they don’t add much to either our understanding of the subject or this show’s creator. It’s crying out for some emotion. Perhaps personal anecdotes from Mills herself or stories about the lesser known and more heartbreaking realities of Andrews’ life (like losing her voice) are what’s needed.

On the other hand, Mills really shows off her acting chops in a performance of music hall classic Burlington Bertie and, despite her protestations, she’s a charismatic mover. Props are nicely woven into the choreography. Great use of a wooden spoon.

There are some standout moments too. Feed The Birds is worth the ticket price alone. Some Enchanted Evening, Something Good, and a Camelot medley provide those moments of contrast it would be so good to have more of.

It’s impossible not to feel good and smile listening to the music of Julie Andrews. So, it’s impossible to leave A Spoonful of Julie without a warm and happy feeling. Mills is genuine and talented. But to take this to the next level the performances need more range, and the stories need to dig beyond the surface and into the emotion that always accompanies our love of Julie Andrews.

A Spoonful of Julie will next be performed in Todmorden and Eccles in September and November. Tickets can be found at www.iamnicolamills.com The Greater Manchester Fringe runs until 31 st July 2022. Tickets can be found at www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk  

Reviewer: Peter Ruddick

Reviewed: 23rd July 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★

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