It requires a lot of set-up, I think, to do the whole thing justice, because time and place is critical to it all. And as much as is explained, there still is a sense of surprise, even if you think you know where maybe it might be leading, but even if not, because it's the anticipation and unexpected moments along the way -- and ultimately the joyous audience appreciative for whatever morsels they got that is the heart of the treat.
You may recall that over 20 years ago, back in 1997, there was a news story about Julie Andrews having a botched throat surgery, and her vocal chords were ruined enough that she said it was not likely that she'd sing again. Three years passed, and it was announced that she would be hosting a PBS special, My Favorite Broadway: The Love Songs. Not to sing -- she wasn't singing anymore -- but to introduce the numbers and performers. And having her back on stage with musical performers was a big deal, and the show was thoroughly wonderful.
At the end, Michael Crawford came on stage to sing the final song from, of all shows, My Fair Lady -- "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." And when he finished, he did a little dialogue from the scene...when off in the wings, there's a surprise as you hear Julie Andrews deliver her Cockney dialogue from the show, recreating her legendary performance -- and then walked out on stage completing the scene Crawford had begun.
It was a magical moment -- just seeing her in a "musical number" and from her most-famous show, no less -- was almost more than enough, even if it was just a dialogue scene. Keep in mind that she'd been hosting the whole evening, just talking while everyone else around her sang, so it was impossible not to hold everything in full perspective. But then, that moment shifted, because Crawford began the spoken lead-in to the song "The Rain in Spain," and Julie Andrews joined in. And although Eliza's part at the beginning is only talked , it nonetheless built the moment even more to hear her speak the famous words, and with music then quietly playing underneath, and the audience -- all Broadway musical fans who knew fully the entire story -- responded with huge enthusiasm. No, it wasn't singing -- she hadn't sung in three years, and couldn't anymore -- but this was Julie Andrews at least talking the opening of "The Rain in Spain." But it turned out that they continued and were going to do the full number. And not only did the applause grow wildly from just that alone...so what if she just sort of talk-sings her part, Rex Harrison talked-sang all his musical numbers in the show -- this was Julie Andrews doing "The Rain in Spain...but even more, as the song and cheers went on, I'm sure it was impossible for anyone in that auditorium or even at home watching, to wonder. No, would she...?? Is it possible??? No. She can't sing anymore. If she could, there was a full show she hosted and she had a chance repeatedly and didn't sing once. So, no. She can't sing. But nonetheless, this is really more than enough, far more and so unexpected.
And still...well, let's just say this is all quite a moment and that the whole sequence just blows the roof off the building. And as much as the attention was on Julie Andrews, I think the most excited person in the room is Michael Crawford -- watch the expression on his face as he holds her in his arms. You can't miss it, because he has to hold her for a very long time as the wild cheering went on, over half a minute. And even then, it still went on.
It's a great, chilling moment, even 20 years later, knowing what is coming. Try to imagine this in 2000, not having a clue.
A love song, indeed.