Rowlf the Dog said it best when he turned to Julie Andrews and said that she is “squarer” than he is. That basically sums up the special Julie Andrews: One Step into Spring which aired on CBS in 1978. I am a strange person who enjoys strange things. I admit this with pride and conviction. I also freely admit that down deep at my core, I am a mixture of a stereotypically gay man who is probably about 63 years old and a ten year old boy. I can often be found singing show tunes while wearing a Batman t-shirt and Chucks. I felt that this special was a no brainer. Show tunes plus Julie Andrews plus the Muppets should be a recipe of pure entertainment delight for me, but even I must put all biases aside and admit this was a hard special to watch. It starts out innocently enough with Julie Andrews singing and dancing in a top hat and tails. The stage quickly fills with other dancers dressed the same. Everything is off to a great job. The song is fun and upbeat. Gonzo even emerges from a trap door at the end and pokes fun at Andrews saying she woke him up while he was sleeping (as he often does) through her shows. At this time, the Muppets had their own hit television show and Andrews had appeared as a guest star during its second season. Andrews with her perfect pitch, warm smile, and oddly perfect comedic timing made for a wonderful guest star. The Muppets had also appeared on Andrews’ own variety show The Julie Andrews Hour and Andrews had appeared alongside Perry Como on the Sesame Street special Julie on Sesame Street. They were relevant and entertaining. Whenever Andrews is on stage with the Muppets, she is gracious and gives the scene her all. She seems to genuinely enjoy performing with the Muppets. My chief complaint is that this special is overall kind of strange, even for the 1970s! The Muppets fill just one of the guest star slots available for this show. Comedian Alan King, singer Leo Sayer, and actress/singer Leslie Uggams are all billed to make this a star studded event. The main problem with these guest stars is that all but the Muppets have been long forgotten. Nonetheless, all of the stars try to make the best of the show. Leo Sayer is a British pop singer known for his hit “You Make Me Feel like Dancing.” We will also see him perform again with the Muppets in the third season of The Muppet Show. After Sayer performs he is then joined for a second song by Andrews. The best part of this song is the opportunity to see Andrews show off her lower range. Andrews even notes that this song marks the first time that she has sang the harmony underneath the melody. Musically, Sayer’s high notes and Andrews’ lower register work very well together, but falls slightly strangely on ears that expect to her Andrews singing higher notes. It is both pleasing and unnerving because you simply do not hear the voice you expect. Next, it is time for Andrews to perform with Uggams. Not only did Uggams star in the groundbreaking mini-series Roots, she had also earned a Tony Award in 1968 for her performance in the Broadway musical Hallelujah, Baby! Uggams will not only appear on The Muppet Show in its third season, but also on the infamously terrible and odd A Special Sesame Street Christmas. In In this special, she and Andrews just happen to sit down and enjoy some tea while chatting about their experiences as children in entertainment. What follows are two very strange musical numbers that I cannot quite get out of my head. The first song they perform is from the musical A Chorus Line entitled “At the Ballet.” The song itself is about dancers who are able to escape a traumatic family life when they are on the stage dancing. The song lays too heavy for this special and does not seem to fit. The staging of the song is also strange. Ballet dancers seem to be practicing while Andrews’ head is transposed over both of the dancers and stage. This could symbolize Andrews imagining or remember this scene from her past, but the visual is just strange. The second song that Uggams and Andrews perform together is a medley of jazz songs from multiple musicals. Uggams and Andrews appear in slinky, sparkly dresses and pose on top of a piano. Although Andrews could technically sing any note perfectly at this stage in her career, Uggams seems to steal the performance while Andrews seems to just enjoy the ride. The medley lasts too long. Just when you think the music is building up to the final few notes to be belted out, another song is snuck in. Very briefly it is revealed that the piano player during this set was Alan King. The most unsettling portion of the medley is when Uggams and Andrews try to flaunt their nonexistent sex appeal when singing a portion of the song “Why Don’t You Do Right.” It would be another decade before Jessica Rabbit performs and owns this song. Finally, all of the waiting has paid off! Up until this point, the Muppets had only briefly appeared after the opening number when Andrews must tell them most of their songs and skits had been cut because the show was running too long and there is a brief duet between Rowlf and Andrews. There is also a slight diva match between Andrews and Miss Piggy, but it only made me crave more of the Muppets. Both of the Muppet songs at the end of the special are perfectly Muppety bits. The first song looks like something straight from The Muppet Show. Andrews sings “Hurry It’s Lovely up Here” in a garden with Muppet flowers. They induce Andrews to sneeze and they slowly take over the set and Andrews! Finally, Kermit appears to call them off. The closing number is “Easter Parade.” Andrews and Kermit segue into this song, but it is executed even less smoothly than the introduction to “At the Ballet.” Kermit is upset because not only was he not invited to the Easter Parade, but he did not have a bonnet to wear. Andrews presents him with a hat box and the set is transformed into the Easter Parade complete with not only Sayer and Uggams, but also Dr. Teeth, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Sweetums, Thog, and other background characters. Overall, despite featuring one of my favorite singers and actresses as well as my beloved Muppets, this special was hard to swallow. At the time, it was met with mixed reviews and low ratings. It has not improved with age, either. Some of the musical choices were strange and slowed the pacing of the show. Instead of being upbeat to match the theme of spring, some of the numbers seemed to go on and on. Perhaps inserting the Muppets here and there during the songs or inserting quick one-liners would have livened up the show. I have to give this special a mere 2 out of 5 rubber chickens! A listing for a DVD release of this special appears on Amazon.com, but it is currently not available. My advice is to grab it once it is released, watch the first ten minutes, which included the opener and some Muppets, but then fast forward to the final two songs. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.