Julie Andrews Tough Enough For Her Return To Stage

Julie Andrews is no nun. She is a show biz survivor who got her start as a little girl who sang in the London subways during the Blitz, and climbed on top of beer crates to sing with her mother and stepfather in smoky music halls. Host Scott Simon considers the theater and film star's career on the day she's set to sing onstage for the first time in 30 years. She'll be performing in London with the London Philharmonic Saturday night.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of song, "Favorite Things")

Ms. JULIE ANDREWS (Singer/Actress): (As Maria) (Singing) Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things...

SIMON: Julie Andrews is no nun. She is a funny, tough show biz survivor who got her start as a little girl who sang in the London subways during the Blitz, and climbed on top of beer crates to sing with her mother and stepfather in smoky music halls.

Of course, she would go on to play Maria in "The Sound of Music," Queen Guinevere in "Camelot," Mary Poppins, and Eliza Doolittle on stage in "My Fair Lady" - a nun, a nanny, a queen, and the flower girl who becomes the vision of a princess.

But doctors found a non-cancerous nodule in her throat in 1997. The operation to remove it left Julie Andrews unable to sing. She sued her surgeons. They settled out of court. She went on to play speaking roles and write children's books. She became Dame Julie in 1999.

I was raised never to carp about things and never to moan, she told an interviewer, because in vaudeville you just got on with it through all kinds of adversities.

Tonight, Dame Julie Andrews will return to the London stage for the first time in 30 years. She'll sing with the London Philharmonic in a show she's put together called "The Gift of Music," featuring the music of Rogers and Hammerstein and Dame Julie reading some of her own stories.

I dont sing the way I used to, she cautions, so Im doing everything I can to put the word out that the audience shouldnt expect that.

But 12 years after she was told she'll never sing again, Ill bet the audience will hear any song by Julie Andrews as an unexpected gift.

(Soundbite of song, "I Could Have Danced All Night")

Ms. ANDREWS: (Singing) I could have danced all night. I could have danced all night and still have begged for more. I could have spread my wings and done a thousand things I've never done before. I'll never know what made it so exciting...

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