The hills -- at least those around the Hollywood Bowl -- will be alive with "The Sound of Music" and other Rodgers and Hammerstein classics when Julie Andrews takes the stage with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra on Friday and Saturday in "Julie Andrews: The Gift of Music."
The program also will feature the West Coast premiere of a symphonic adaptation of "Simeon's Gift," the bestselling children's book by Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, one of many they have written for their Julie Andrews Collection publishing imprint that celebrates the arts and nature.
A fable in a medieval setting, the book "is about a minstrel who discovers the wonders of life through music, kindness and nature," Andrews said via e-mail.
Andrews, who no longer sings due to complications from vocal-cord surgery in the late 1990s, narrates the musical, which was composed by Ian Fraser, who conducts, with lyrics by John Bucchino ("A Catered Affair").
Cast members are Broadway musical veterans Stephen R. Buntrock, Christiane Noll, Anne Runolfsson and Kevin Odekirk, along with operatic baritone Jubilant Sykes.
The evening is special for Andrews, she said, because "it combines my passion for music, the arts and literacy. I also wanted to celebrate the music that has inspired me. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were such an integral part of my life and it is a pleasure for me to honor them in this production as well."
"The Gift of Music" also serves as a tribute to Andrews' long and stellar career encompassing the London and Broadway stages, film, TV and recordings. Screens on either side of the stage will show vintage video clips of her in "Cinderella" and "The Sound of Music," plus montages of childhood photographs and stills from "Carousel" and "The King and I."
During "Simeon's Gift," there will be projections of the book's watercolor illustrations by artist Gennady Spirin.
Calling the Hollywood Bowl "a dynamic vessel for great music," Andrews said she is pleased "to finally have the opportunity to perform on its stage in a glorious program that means so much to me."
-- Lynne Heffley