There’s surely no greater a national treasure than Julie Andrews, the legendary star who will forever be known as Maria in The Sound of Music and as none other than Mary Poppins herself – both films are, after all, Christmas and Easter traditions. Andrews’ career has encompassed both stage and screen from My Fair Lady and The Boyfriend to the more recent Shrek and The Princess Diaries. Tragically, Andrews’ singing career was cut short following a botched throat op in 1997 which robbed her of the many older lady parts she might have played, and she has concentrated on primarily non-singing roles since then. Andrews had not appeared live on stage in the UK for 21 years until her O2 concert before 20,000 fans in 2010. Amongst the fans at that concert was singer and actress Sarah-Louise Young, a former member of the cabaret trio Fascinating Aida, who was inspired to write and perform the ‘charming yet cheeky cabaret’ Julie Madly Deeply, which is currently touring the UK following a London run. But can she do her idol justice?

Young is clearly an enormous fan of Andrews, bookending the evening – itself a kind of love letter to the star – with letters penned by herself to Andrews from childhood to adulthood, and is vocally not dissimilar too. This kind of show – an intimate cabaret with only musical director Michael Roulston on stage for company – requires a confident, experienced, witty and erudite performer to pull it off successfully and Young has all these attributes and more. Young succeeds in seamlessly making the transition from performer to confidante to the audience and back again, using the audience and their own memories and experiences of Andrews to further inform her anecdotes of Andrews’ life (on the evening I saw the show, Young was delighted to meet a gentleman who had seen Andrews in Camelot on Broadway). Roulston brings an ironic humour to proceedings too, providing accompaniment on both piano and vocals, even carrying off the rare art of wearing a shiny burgundy suit with panache! Young herself is inevitably dressed as Maria from The Sound of Music (including the unflattering wig of that period and style), with a great physicality to her performance, and emphasises how hard Andrews worked during that golden period of musical theatre and film. During an incredible 2000-long performance run in My Fair Lady on stage, Andrews’ 2-week holiday was used for filming a TV version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella – it would have taken 110 years of performing in the theatre to be seen by the number of people who watched that broadcast. That’s the irony of showbiz.

Julie Madly Deeply doesn’t shy away from the low points of Andrews’ life and career, from the failure of her first marriage to the aforementioned throat op. That occurred during another incredibly busy time for Andrews as she was appearing in the stage version of Victor Victoria on Broadway – her husband Blake Edwards, ‘the love of her life’ according to Young, had already directed her in the earlier film version. On Broadway, Liza Minnelli stepped in to replace Andrews in the role for a period – Young’s physical and vocal impersonation of Minnelli has to be seen to be believed – maybe that should be her next project. While Andrews’ recent appearance at the O2 (she’s back in the UK in May this year for a series of non-singing interview-style evenings) drew criticism for the inevitable lack of solos, it merely furthered Young’s interest and inspired a trip to Salzburg. Young’s energetic, occasionally frenetic performance is well-judged and full of charm and humour, inviting the audience to join her if they wish in a final medley of Andrews’ best-known work. The evening surely would only have been better if Dame Julie herself had turned up to join in the fun.