(Harry Haun’s article appeared in the Observer, 8/22; via Pam Green.)
‘The Great American Mousical’ — one of the 31 children’s books written by the mother and daughter team — takes it first steps toward a 2023 run in Los Angeles.
Sometime after Victor/Victoria opened on Broadway in 1995, a small, solitary mouse made its way up from the bowels of the Marriott Marquis Theater and into the theater’s wardrobe room. Julie Andrews, then inhabiting both title roles, got the word from her hairdresser, who told her traps were set.
The actress reacted to this news with a combination of horror and compassion that one could expect from somebody who owes her Mary Poppins Oscar to the guy who created Mickey Mouse: “Oh, could you please make sure they put down humane traps? If you catch the little mouse, don’t kill it. Take it out somewhere far away so it can have a life in the country.”
Andrews sheepishly confesses to this response: “The hairdresser looked at me as if I were mad, then said, ‘Julie, the theaters on Broadway are riddled with mice in the basement. There are probably hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of mice under here. This one probably just came up to look at all the stars.’ And that made us laugh. Then, I suddenly had a lightbulb about that notion and started thinking, ‘Oh, my God! A troupe of mice in the basement of a great theater! Wonder if they are putting on their own shows downstairs for their own audiences.’”
She took this idea to her usual collaborator—her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, who is as theater-savvy as her mother. With husband Stephen Hamilton and producer Sybil Christopher, Hamilton founded the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York, 31 years ago and has been running it ever since—all this, while simultaneously writing 31 children’s books with Andrews.
“The more we talked about it, the more excited we became,” Hamilton admits. “What a way to bring the magic of theater down to a kind of manageable scale for young readers! Within this troupe of mice could be all the classic characters of any theater, whether human or mouse: the director, the difficult leading lady, the intern, the weary producer, the hysterical hairdresser.