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LOS ANGELES — Julie Andrews wants to make one thing perfectly clear — she’s not making a comeback as a singer.


For the last few months, Andrews has been trying to dispel rumors that she has had vocal reconstruction surgery. Back in 1997, she had non-cancerous nodules removed from her throat, silencing the glorious soprano that graced the Broadway musicals “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot” and film classics such as 1964’s “Mary Poppins,” for which she won a best actress Oscar, 1965’s “The Sound of Music” and 1982’s “Victor/Victoria.”


Andrews says a week after this erroneous report began to circulate on the Internet, it was announced that she was going to do a big concert this May in London.


“What is happening is that I am re-creating a concert last year I did at the Hollywood Bowl and toured America with,” she explained. “It’s with full symphony orchestra and singers. The first half is all Rodgers and Hammerstein music as it is related to me, so it’s footage and narration and storytelling.”


And, yes, a bit of singing from Andrews. “I go right out and say, ‘You all know I have had vocal surgery and I do have about five bass notes left, so I can assure you I can still sing the hell out of “Old Man River.”’”


The second half of the evening is a symphonic version of one of her children’s stories, “Simeon’s Gift,” for which she reads the narration.


She “dreadfully” misses singing. Recently, she talked to her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton about how badly she felt about not being able to sing anymore.


Then Emma reminded her of her success writing children’s books.


“My daughter said a wonderful thing to me — ‘Mum, you have just found a different way of using your voice.’”


The eternally youthful Andrews, 74, is relaxing in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel. Her shoes are off and her feet are up on the table. Although she’s suffering from jet lag, Andrews is practically perfect — gracious, funny and witty.


She offers a cup of English tea and a chance to share some of her cookies. She loves to chat about her love of children; her own childhood; her latest film, “Tooth Fairy,” which opens Friday; and her experience making the 1966 mystery thriller “Torn Curtain” for director Alfred Hitchcock.


Andrews begins laughing when she learns that the interviewer wasn’t allowed to see “Torn Curtain” because she shares her bed with Paul Newman in the opening sequence. Of course, the scene is so tame these days, the film probably would be G-rated.


She loved working with “Hitch.”


“He couldn’t have been kinder,” she noted. “My experience was that he was a little protective. He didn’t like other people to have my attention. I remember someone coming on the set to visit me and he deliberately moved into my sightline.”


He also taught her about camera lenses. The Master of Suspense took her into his trailer one day and for 45 minutes “drew diagrams about how this lens would make my nose grow and this one would shorten it and what I should ask for. He couldn’t have been more generous.”


Besides Newman, Andrews has had more than her share of good-looking leading men.


She was wooed by both Richard Burton and Robert Goulet on Broadway in the musical “Camelot” and shared a gazebo with Christopher Plummer in “The Sound of Music.” Over the years, she’s also been romanced by the likes of Rex Harrison, James Garner, Omar Sharif and even Dudley Moore.


Now she’s sharing the screen with Dwayne Johnson, the former wrestler known as the Rock, in the family comedy “Tooth Fairy.”


Johnson plays a minor league hockey player with a cynical outlook on life who is called “Tooth Fairy” because he tends to knock the teeth out of his competition. When he quashes a young boy’s dreams of becoming a hockey star, he’s forced to become a real tooth fairy.


Andrews plays his firm but kind boss — the Queen of all the Tooth Fairies.


“Somebody asked me today if he would have been a star in the old days,” said Andrews.


“I said yes because I think it’s all there.”


Two years ago, Andrews released the first volume of her autobiography “Home,” which chronicled her rather turbulent early life in England. She adored her father, Ted Wells, who was a teacher. Her colorful mother, Barbara, taught piano and performed, eventually divorcing Wells and marrying Ted Andrews, a Canadian tenor with a drinking problem. On more than one occasion, Andrews wrote, she had to spurn his advances.


Even with all the turmoil, Andrews says had a great childhood fantasy life. “I was allowed to believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny,” she recalled. She credits her father for giving her stability and encouraging her to perform; her stage career began at age 9.


“My dad encouraged reading,” she says. “He was dead-on straight as they come, a really decent human being. My mother supplied all the color and the vibrancy side of things.”


She thinks she is drawn to protect children because of her childhood. Andrews has been writing children’s books for nearly 40 years, several with Emma.


“I can’t say I’ve always felt that way,” says Andrews, who has raised five children and now has seven grandchildren. “I fell into it.


“It’s something that just grew.”

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By Geoff Boucher
24 Mar 2010
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