Cabaret Interview Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Sarah-Louise Young: Julie Madly Deeply and Yes Queens

By | Published on Friday 17 December 2021

I was really happy when I heard we had a reason to interview the fabulous Sarah-Louise Young this week – it feels good and fitting to end the year with a long term favourite, and a past winner of one of our ThreeWeeks Editors’ Awards.

And what’s the reason? Well, she’s headed to Park Theatre this week to begin a run of her acclaimed show ‘Julie Madly Deeply’, which she performs with musical director and co-star Michael Roulston. She’ll also be doing an appearance in the same venue shortly in ‘Yes Queens’, a fab female-led improv show.

I spoke to her to find out more about both of those shows – and to have a general catch up on all things Sarah-Louise.

CM: ‘Julie Madly Deeply’ isn’t a new show – of course – so readers may be already aware of it, but can you tell us what to expect?
S-LY: ‘Julie Madly Deeply’ is a musical love-letter to Dame Julie Andrews. We tell the story of her life and career from opera singing child star to becoming the international icon of TV, film and stage she is today.

It’s a joyful, funny and at times touching cabaret which weaves songs from her well known musicals, like ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Mary Poppins’, with some lesser known gems from films like ‘Darling Lili’ and ‘Star!’

CM: Has the show changed in any ways since you first started to perform it?
S-LY: It’s hard to believe we’ve been performing this show on and off for eight years! Not all the time of course, but we’ve played sold out runs in Australia, Canada, as well as Off Broadway and in the West End. It was originally conceived as a 75-minute one act piece but we are thrilled to be presenting the full two act version at The Park this December.

As well as extending the show, we’ve added stories and fun facts we’ve learned along the way from our audiences. For example, we were gifted a huge brown paper package – tied up with string, of course – from one 83-year-old fan who gave us her entire lifetime’s collection of Julie Andrews memorabilia. It was such a generous gesture. We found all sorts of lovely things in there which we now talk about in the show.

As performers, both Michael – my musical director and co-star – and I have our roots in cabaret as well as theatre, so we love adapting the show around each specific audience and making it interactive and special for them. I love to improvise, which keeps the show fresh and ever evolving.

CM: What made you decide to do a run of it this December?
S-LY: Julie Andrews is such a big part of people’s Christmas traditions. ‘The Sound Of Music’ and ‘Mary Poppins’ are on TV – friends and families of all generations gather together to watch, it’s so special. We’ve performed the show on boats and in tents, in the heat of an Edinburgh August and the glow of an Adelaide Autumn, but Christmas in London, our home city, that’s magic. Also, although the show is not specifically for children, we have had attentive audiences as young as seven, so it’s a lovely seasonal offering.

CM: You’re doing a second show at the Park Theatre this month, ‘Yes Queens’. Can you tell us what kind of show that is, and who is involved with it?
S-LY: I am so excited to be part of the West End’s first female-led improvised comedy night. I was a member of Oliver Award winning-improvised musical ‘The Showstoppers!’ for ten years and stepped aside to focus on my solo work, but I really miss that part of my life. I can’t wait to play games and make up scenes and songs with some of the best improvisers in the country.

The Guardian said one of our songs, “Wouldn’t be out of place in a West End musical”! We have an incredibly rich improv scene in the UK – and as well as ‘The Showstoppers!’ – the show features alumni from ‘Austentatious’ and Mischief Theatre – the team behind ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ and other great productions.

We’re playing on 23 and 30 Dec at 9.30pm, and I’ll be guesting in the first one alongside the brilliant Ruth Bratt, Maria Peters, Monika Gaga and Heather Urquhart, with Duncan Walsh Atkins on the piano.

Our fabulous producer on both shows, Julie Clare, has done a wonderful job assembling such fantastic players and giving us this platform to come together and make our own mischief on!

CM: It’s been about five years, I think, since we last did a Q&A? What good things have happened in the meantime?
S-LY: What a lovely question! I met the love of my life, became a cat lady, directed several shows – including Mark Farrelly in ‘Jarman’ and Paulus in ‘Looking For Me Friend – The Music Of Victoria Wood’, which are both on tour – created a new solo show with our ‘JMD’ director, called ‘An Evening Without Kate Bush’, got my first grey hair – so I am officially wise! – and really appreciated every moment I got to be on stage with a live audience, doing the thing I love most.

CM: Obviously the pandemic also occurred during that time and the lockdowns really hit performers hard – how difficult was that for you? How did you get through it?
S-LY: It was tough and it is still feeling precarious. I am so grateful to all the venues and producers, box office staff, tech and crew and people trying to make it work.

Michael and I kept ourselves very busy launching our bespoke song writing service. We write and record unique, original songs and videos for special occasions. We’ve had a lovely time helping families and friends celebrate weddings, birthdays and anniversaries in song. It’s been especially rewarding to hear how our music has helped people feel united when COVID has kept them apart. We even wrote a song for a cat!

Like many creatives, I lost a year’s work overnight, but so many people lost so much more, so I know the best thing I can do is stay positive, be creative and help where I can, like signing up for the NHS Volunteer Responders App.

CM: I know you did some digital shows during that period – how well did that work for you?
S-LY: We had a great response to our Facebook Lives and even did corporate events and Christmas parties on Zoom. It was a fast learn and I’m amazed at how quickly we were able to adapt. My feeling was that, instead of apologising for what we couldn’t do, we should have fun with what we could.

I do a lot of multi-character shows so I was able to do quick changes off camera and engage with the online audiences by asking them to vote on things or answer questions. I even worked on a show based in the US called ‘Eschaton’, gigging at three o’clock in the morning – that was an incredible experience!

We’ve been really lucky and had great audiences who supported us throughout. But there’s nothing like being in the same room together so I am really looking forward to our run this Christmas

CM: Digital streaming options seem to be sticking around even outside of lockdown – do you think it’s a good thing and do you think this will continue?
S-LY: I do think it’s a good thing. Not every show will suit being adapted for online audiences of course and I think we will see an increase in work being made especially for a digital audience, like ‘Eschaton’. Artists are getting really innovative, incorporating elements of smell and touch to their work to enhance the feeling of being connected.

I’ve also been able to share shows with fans in other parts of the world I might not have reached otherwise, as well as parents, carers or housebound folk who might not ordinarily be able to get to a theatre.

I’ve also run workshops on theatre-making with participants taking part from Kenya, Malaysia and Rome all at the same time and taught improvisation to business students in China.

CM: What hopes and aims do you have for the next few years?
S-LY: I’m working on a new show for Summerhall’s Edinburgh 2022 season at the moment with director Sioned Jones. It’s about the stigma of voice loss and it’s called ‘The Silent Treatment’.

I have several other exciting projects lined up, including my first book, which my partner Paul Chronnell and I made together, called ‘The RSVPeople’. Michael and I also have a musical called ‘Maxa, The Most Assassinated Woman In The World’, which we workshopped at Wilton’s Music Hall and are trying to get staged.

On a personal level, I want to spend as much time as I can with my loved ones and stay fit and healthy. If nothing else, the past year and a half have reminded me to cherish every day and appreciate what I have.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
S-LY: After our run at The Park Theatre, I go straight into rehearsals for both ‘The Silent Treatment’ and a show I am directing with Russell Lucas called ‘The Bobby Kennedy Experience’. Then I start a three-week run of ‘An Evening Without Kate Bush’ at the Soho Theatre on 7 Feb before embarking on the second leg of our UK tour. Oh and I might be moving house… but I can’t think about that right now – there’s Christmas wrapping to be done!

‘July Madly Deeply’ is on at the Park Theatre from 20 Dec-2 Jan. Read more and book tickets here.

‘Yes Queens’ is on at the same venue on 23 + 30 Dec. Click here for more.

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