Julie Andrews invites young viewers into ‘Julie’s Greenroom’ in new Netflix arts series

Mar 9, 2017

Julie Andrews surely is qualified to educate young people about the performing arts.

Not only is the much-beloved performer an enduring family favorite of several generations – thanks largely to “The Sound of Music” and her Oscar-winning “Mary Poppins” performance – she’s also a director (having steered an Australian production of one of her own stage successes, “My Fair Lady”) and a longtime arts patron, currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

It’s logical, then, that Andrews would be a prime force behind Netflix’s new series “Julie’s Greenroom,’’ which begins streaming Friday, March 17. In the show that she co-created with Emma Walton Hamilton (her daughter and frequent children’s-book collaborator) and Judy Rothman Rofé, she plays “Ms. Julie,” who teaches workshops to at-home viewers as well as on-camera “students” who are new puppet creations of the Jim Henson Creature Shop. (The late Henson’s company shares executive-producing credit on the series with Andrews, Hamilton and Andrews’ manager, Steve Sauer.)

Andrews also was a guest on the original “Muppet Show’’ and made a special titled “Julie on Sesame Street,” and she deems her new puppet co-stars “adorable. And the puppeteers are spectacularly talented, and lovely people. I think they broke the mold when some people dedicated themselves to becoming puppeteers. They’re special, they really are, kind and gentle – and self-effacing, because they’re never seen, of course.” However, Andrews reveals that some are seen in “Julie’s Greenroom,” fully visible in cameos. “It’s a nice little inside joke,” Hamilton notes.

The fictional Julie has an energetic young assistant named Gus (Giullian Yao Gioiello), but she also gets teaching help from guest performers. Among those appearing are Alec Baldwin, Idina Menzel, David Hyde Pierce, Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban, “Glee” alum Chris Colfer, violinist Joshua Bell, Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess of Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” the performance group Stomp, and a close Andrews “chum” and fellow entertainment icon with whom she made classic television specials … Carol Burnett.

“We were very, very fortunate,” Hamilton reflects. “Alec is a good family friend, and so is Carol Burnett (who is Hamilton’s godmother). It was also driven by what the focus of each episode was in terms of the arts. If we knew an episode was going to focus on songwriting, it was a question of brainstorming about who would be an ideal person both in talent and our audience demographic. Of course, Sara Bareilles was at the top of that list, and fortunately, she said ‘Yes.’ The only turndowns we got were because of conflicting schedules.”

Andrews had been wanting to do a show like “Julie’s Greenroom” for quite some time – “probably pre-Muppets and pre-‘Sesame Street,’ but a little thing called life got in the way” – and Hamilton allows the series she and her mother helped devise has “a slightly retro feel to it, as a show featuring a charismatic human host and puppets together. We also wanted very much for it to have a fresh feel, and luckily because we were partnering with Netflix, we could be a little progressive.”

Working together on “Julie’s Greenroom” has been fulfilling for Andrews and Hamilton in ways more than professional. “Having Emma on the set, just walking about and being wonderful with everybody, she’s looking out for me,” Andrews says. “She writes better than I do, truthfully, and she’s a great producer. It is such a joy for us to work together. We never knew originally if we were compatible, but we are.”

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