Love List is our Spotify series where we ask Opera House guests, friends and staff to curate a playlist dedicated to an artist, genre or theme of their choice – an ode to something they love. For this Love List, to celebrate her show Becoming Eliza, Anna Byrne has curated a list of songs around her idol and former director, Julie Andrews.
A few years ago, I had the experience of a lifetime when I was directed by Dame Julie Andrews in the 60th anniversary production of My Fair Lady.
This wonderful experience was not without its challenges… first and foremost, how do I address her? My director? Ms Andrews? Dame Julie? Ma'am?… your Majesty?! Well, Julie put us all firmly at ease when she announced on the first day of rehearsals that we could all call her “Mum”. Cue sobbing from most of the company!
My new solo show Becoming Eliza began as a series of random notes, scribbled into the margins of the My Fair Lady script during rehearsals – anecdotes, facts from my research, acting notes from Julie, and stories from the rehearsal room.
Over the two and a half years I spent performing the role of Eliza Doolittle, these random scribbles grew and morphed into something much larger, and now, with wonderful collaboration from our creative team, Becoming Eliza has itself become a theatrical concert experience.
I’m fascinated by the emotional response that My Fair Lady evokes from audiences. Its themes of class, gender, and triumphing over adversity still resonate today. Eliza’s story of pulling herself up by her bootstraps in search of a better life, and overcoming challenges on her path to self-actualisation is one to which we can all relate. Personally, there was also a deep parallel between the journey I had as an actor (learning the role of Eliza under the guidance of a brilliant tutor) and the journey of Eliza (learning to change her accent under the guidance of a brilliant tutor).
Creating this playlist feels like a full-circle moment for me, as when I was researching and writing Becoming Eliza I spent countless hours falling down several Julie-Andrews-shaped holes on Spotify.
She was an integral part of the soundtrack of my childhood, as she is for so many. It gives me great joy to spend a little time exploring the multitude of musical gifts which Julie has given to us.