Julie Andrews does double time in 'Victor/Victoria' Stamina: The hard-working star is committed to the Broadway show and proves it eight times a week.

Julie Andrews says that giving up the Tony nomination for her performance in "Victor/Victoria" was easy. It's doing "Victor/Victoria" that's hard.

You try a dozen costume changes from woman to man to woman to man, sing a G flat powerfully enough to create the impression of shattering glass, run from one end of a stage to the other while three assistants wait in the wings with throat sprays and water bottles laced with Gatorade and dance the tango with Rachel York eight times a week and see how long you last.


At the age of 60, no less.

"I sing eight songs in the show," Andrews said as she sat at her dressing room mirror before last Sunday's matinee, preparing to go on for her (alleluia!) final show of the week. She slipped her "Victoria" boots over her elastic ankle supports. "I get to intermission, and I've still got five songs to go."


Not that she was counting. She couldn't afford to start counting. Not when she has another year of playing Victoria Grant to get through, a role so grueling that when she leaves Manhattan at the end of each week for her rented retreat on the East End of Long Island, she instantly conks out on a futon rolled out in the back of her four-wheel-drive Ford.

"I think I was the one who kept saying to Blake, 'I don't know that you have any idea of how exhausting a Broadway show is,' " Andrews said. Even now, she has the sneaking suspicion that her husband, movie director Blake Edwards, who directed the film and stage versions of "Victor/Victoria," has only the vaguest notion of what her work week really involves.

"I keep trying to get him to follow me through a show and see what it's like," she added.

Her stamina is a reflection of how deeply Andrews has committed herself to "Victor/Victoria," how intensely she wants the show to be successful and how hard she pushes herself up the steep mountain of a performance, as the main attraction in a star-driven vehicle, eight times a week. (Two of her peers in big Broadway roles, Zoe Caldwell, of "Master Class," and Andrews' close friend Carol Burnett, of "Moon Over Buffalo," both reduced their workloads to seven shows a week.)

But Andrews' latest action in behalf of her show has cast her in one of the unlikeliest roles of her five-decade-long career: Broadway firebrand. On May 8, in a decision that stunned Broadway, Andrews announced that she would not accept her Tony nomination for best actress in a musical. Employing a phrase that has become an instant classic in theater circles, Andrews said she was withdrawing because everyone else in the show had been "egregiously overlooked" by the Tony nominators.

Helping others

Andrews, with her deep desire to comfort others -- on the morning after her emergency gall bladder surgery three months ago, she was sitting up in her hospital bed, writing a long explanatory note to the cast, in verse -- seems an odd candidate for stirring things up. Reflecting on her action 2 1/2 weeks after taking it, she said she had no choice but to decline the nomination.

"It was, on the one hand, the easiest decision I ever had to make," Andrews said. "On the other hand, I was quaking in my boots for a week. My biggest worry was that I was going to hurt someone or something that I hadn't considered. Then when I really, really thought about it, I really couldn't hurt anybody."


The decision may have divided the theater world; some admirers have called it a gutsy act, while other theater people and critics have said it smacked of sour grapes. But backstage at "Victor/Victoria," the action drew raves: The queen, after all, had done it for them. On the Sunday after her announcement, the cast and crew presented her with a silver Tiffany bowl, bought with $2,000 they raised. Outside her dressing room, a giant replica of the Tony medallion, swiped from last year's Tony Awards show, now hangs on the wall.

"It was a remarkable moment," Tony Roberts, Andrews' co-star, said of her withdrawal. "I was kind of proud and happy to be a member of the company. I thought she did the right thing, in retrospect. At the time, I didn't know if it was the right thing, but now I think it was."

Andrews said the decision was purely hers. "It just felt right," she said. "It came from my heart. That's all I can say." She will not attend the Tony Awards ceremony, the show's producers say.

Disciplined life

The actress could not indulge in many such acts of defiance. She doesn't have time. Playing the role of a woman who pretends to be a man who claims to be Europe's greatest female impersonator is all-consuming, so much so that seven months into the run of "Victor/Victoria," Andrews lives in a kind of cocoon, with little room for anything but work and rest.

Those around her make the musical sound a bit like a hair shirt. "She lives the most disciplined, Spartan life while she does a show," said Tony Adams, one of the show's producers and a longtime associate of Edwards.


"She doesn't have a glass of wine. She demands a certain number of hours of sleep a night. She does not go out to things that she would really love to see."

Adams said the discipline required for a long run had left %J Andrews with a bad taste earlier in life: Her appearance in "Victor/Victoria," in fact, is her first extended run on Broadway since "Camelot," in 1961. (That year, Andrews, who has never won a Tony, lost to Elizabeth Seal, a star of "Irma La Douce"; she lost the Tony in 1957, when she appeared in "My Fair Lady," to Judy Holliday, for "Bells Are Ringing.")

"She knew better than any of us what this was, having lived through 'My Fair Lady' and 'Camelot,' " Adams added. "The decision for her to come back to Broadway was an enormous decision, probably one of the biggest life decisions that I have seen her make."

Asked if performing the show was pleasurable, Andrews considered the question.

"There is no other life than this life," she said. "The rewards are phenomenal. Who's luckier than I am? I have a wonderful role and a great company. So I feel terribly fortunate."

Pub Date: 6/03/96