Julie Andrews: The voice of a generation (or two)

Julie Andrews: The voice of a generation (or two)

You can’t pay homage to Julie Andrews in a single sentence. There is simply too much to talk about. She’s won three Grammy Awards for her singing. She’s been nominated for Tony Awards for her work on stage. And she’s won two Emmy Awards and an Academy Award for her work on screens. 

The awards are quantifiable; the delight Andrews has created through her characters and singing are immeasurable. People around the world are familiar with her proper-yet-sweet British accent. Netflix viewers will get another dose of Andrews in Season 3 of Bridgerton, which debuts May 16. Andrews brings a light, cheeky tone to the written words of gossip columnist Lady Whistledown. Her character primarily dishes about sexual and romantic escapades — both confirmed and speculated upon. It’s Andrews who provides vital narration that sets the tone for each season of Bridgerton

While she doesn’t appear on camera, she doesn’t need any more screen time to add to her outstanding resume. She’s been endearing herself to audiences since her Hollywood debut in the 1960s, first with Cinderella and then an award-winning turn as the lead character in Mary Poppins.

Without really thinking about it, you can probably hear her singing voice in her head. Watch what happens with a little prompt: “A spoonful of sugar helps the …” 

Did you add “medicine go down”? Of course you did. Her Grammy for singing was for her work on Mary Poppins, an enduring children’s entertainment classic. Let’s play again: “Super-cali-fragil-istic …”

It’s impossible to not add “expi-ali-docious”. That’s how catchy the songs were. We could stop right there, but then came The Sound of Music. We could play the same game with My Favorite Things or Do-Re-Mi. Her four-octave singing is etched in our memories. 

Since a surgery went wrong in the 1990s, audiences have mostly been robbed of hearing any new tunes, but Andrews’ voice is still building on an enduring legacy.

On screen, in more recent history, she introduced herself to a new generation of kids with The Princess Diaries franchise. Off screen, she voiced characters in both the Shrek and Despicable Me franchises.  

Bridgerton, of course, is hardly children’s fare. Set in England in the early 19th century, the show focuses on the love lives of the British upper crust. Almost every episode drips with sexual tension. The character of Penelope is a young woman who observes the escapades around her and chronicles them in a gossip sheet printed and sold in the streets. After the writing is done, Andrews provides the voice for Penelope’s columns, and she clearly delights in providing the narration. 

Andrews was recently asked if her Bridgerton role would go away after Penelope was unmasked as the author of the gossip columns.

“No, no, no,” she says. “You know who Lady Whistledown really is, so I’m afraid it stays with me in the background. But I’m very happy to do that.”

All the better for her millions of fans. Lady Whistledown figures to feature prominently in the third season debuting in May. The plot draws from Julia Quinn’s book, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, which focuses on Penelope’s relationship with Colin Bridgerton. Naturally, Lady Whisteldown’s narration will be intertwined with Penelope’s story. 

The Bridgerton role is a perfect use of one of the most famous voices in entertainment history. At 88 years old, Andrews doesn’t need the success of Bridgerton to validate her career. But it’s a wonderful gift from an actress who’s already given so much.

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