The Melbourne Cabaret festival is THE highlight of fabulous cabaret to be enjoyed during our chilly Melbourne winter. Since its inception in 2010, it has been growing exponentially and now caters for all forms of cabaret including Kids Cabaret, Matinee and Cabaret Fringe. This year is jam-packed with the best cabaret performers from our shores and across the globe, and is a must see event.

One of those fabulous performers is Karla Hillam, who will be bringing us The Music of Julie Andrews in Practically Perfect.

For generations she has graced the stage and screen and is fondly remembered for being Maria in The Sound of Music and of course, the wonderful nanny in Mary Poppins. Now in one glorious stage production comes Practically Perfect celebrating the life and music of the legendary Dame Julie Andrews.

For Hillam, it felt like the universe had aligned on this show. “I had been looking for something to contrast with the piece I did for Melbourne Fringe last year “Ugly Duckling” and this couldn’t have been more different and perfect,” she says. Hillam had wanted to work with the writer and Producer of Practically Perfect, Marg Fisk, for a long time as she had had friends work with her in the past. “She happened to work on a play that I was in last year and she mentioned the show she was developing and I was like ‘Marg, this is the one! How can we make this happen?'”

Hillam was also excited to work with the other creatives involved:

“Then to have Jeremy (Jeremy Hinman, performer and PP choreographer) and James (James Cutler, Director) on board was super exciting because  I have worked with Jeremy in the past and we get along great and I have known James since I was 19. He was in my 1st Am Dram show, so I have loved having him direct this piece. Martine (Martine Wengrow – Musical Director) I hadn’t met but we have had such a blast working together.”

Julie Andrews has become an icon for so many. Her career is every actor’s and performer’s dream She has been an active participant in the sometimes fickle business known as show business for 70 years with a plethora of accolades and awards to mark her achievements for her work in both film and stage. And everyone has a favourite Julie Andrews film!

“I love all of Julie’s work especially Mary Poppins, it’s a childhood favourite,” says Hillam. “The thing I admire about Julie is her tenacity and her drive to show the full diversity of herself in her roles. She’s known as being sweet and delightful but she’s no pushover. In fact the thing I love most about her is that she has strength in all the roles she plays.”

The show features some of Andrews’ best known songs from Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Victor Victoria and more, interwoven with stories about her life on and off the stage. Hillam  acknowledges that it has taken a team of researchers to  prepare for the show. “From reading biographies to re-watching her films to listening to her recordings to watching countless clips from her TV shows and concerts on YouTube,” she says. “There’s so much material available now it’s fabulous. Talk about a YouTube click hole! Literally hours and hours.”

Hillam has learnt quite a lot when it comes to Andrews, and there were some discoveries that surprised her.

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“Lots of things surprised me about Julies life and career, she’s quite the work horse and was always driven to evolve and grow. She wasn’t afraid to say no thank you, if she thought the role was similar to something she had already created. She is also extremely resilient, when the work did dry up she didn’t just give up, she looked for another angle. And to be honest I was one of those people that thought she came from money, but now I know that is not the case.”

There is no doubt that Julie Andrews is more than an English treasure – she is a global one. Her ability to continue to win audiences through the decades is a testament to, not only her talent, but the women she inherently is.

Says Hillam: “I think so many people are endeared to Julie because you feel safe in her presence. By which I mean, when you see her perform on stage or on screen her strength and warmth shines through in equal measure. It’s a balance I believe we all aim for in life in some respect and she radiates with it.”

Hillam believes Andrews’ greatest achievement is that she has always used her talents for good. “She has never given up, even in the face of great adversity,” she says. “She has brought joy to so many people around the world with her performances but she has also used her fame and name to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.”

Hillam sees Andrews as an artist who always found a way to bring light and joy to others. Someone who wouldn’t allow themselves to be boxed in or type cast. Someone who isn’t defined by one skill or another and is more than the sum of her parts. And with regard to how Andrews might like to be remembered? “I think she’d say ‘I’m actually not quite done yet’ but I hope she is remembered as a diverse powerhouse and someone who gave her whole self to the world,” says Hillam.

Practically Perfect – The Music of Julie Andrews celebrates all of Julie, and Hillam would love audiences to know that Julie is so much more than Mary or Maria, but, she says,  there’s a reason why we adore those characters so much and why they have lived on for generations.

This is a show that you can enjoy across the generations. Bring you grandparents, your parents and your kids.

“I find it’s not often that you get to go out and experience and enjoy things together as an extended family,” says Hillam. “This show is one where you can delight in the nostalgia and introduce a brand new audience to the all the joy that Julie created over her huge career. It’s a treat for the senses, so come and enjoy the magic that is Julie Andrews.”

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Practically Perfect – The Music of Julie Andrews runs June 28 – 30 at Chapel Off Chapel

Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2018 from Tuesday 19 June to Sunday 1 July 2018, Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran.  Bookings: http://melbournecabaret.com

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