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‘Julie’s Greenroom’ Celebrates Creativity, Problem-solving, and Teamwork

Where to Stream

Julie's Greenroom

So, look. I don’t enjoy live drama. Musical theater is my idea of hell. Clowns… Well, what do I even need to say about clowns? This is my way of saying that I am not the ideal audience for Julie’s Greenroom (now streaming on Netflix). And, at ten-years-old, my daughter is a bit old for this show. But we take our work as critics seriously, so I did my best to overcome my aversion to the lively arts while Fran tried to remember what it was like to be young.

It goes without saying that Julie Andrews is a treasure, and she happens to star in two of the three musicals I like: The Sound of Music (obviously) and Victor/Victoria. (The third, because you’re dying to know, is Camelot.) Here, she’s warm and enthusiastic and—no surprise—enough of a pro to interact with puppets like they’re real kids. As for the puppets themselves, they’re pretty much what you expect from the company founded by Jim Henson: cute and diverse. Fran was especially impressed that one of the kids is in a wheelchair, and she totally identified with Riley, the Greenie who’s into the technical aspects of theater. There’s also Julie’s assistant, Gus, an affably anodyne young man played by Giullian Yao Gioiello.

Photo: Netflix

Over the course of the first season, Julie, Gus, and the Greenies work on putting together an original production. Each episode focuses on an aspect of the performing arts, and each episode features a special guest. In the first installment, Adele Dazeem Idina Menzel shows up and the kids get to go behind the scenes at a performance of Wicked. Next, they focus on writing their play and get a visit from Chris Colfer, who, in addition to being one of Glee’s stars, is also an author of books for kids. There are singing lessons, ballet lessons, lessons in circus performances, and scenes from real-life workshops where kids are writing and dancing and such.

I cringe every time Gus breaks into song—I’m not into tenors, or people breaking into song—and the Greenies are a bit cloying. But, my kid and I both enjoyed this more than we expected to. She was impressed by the expressiveness of the puppets, and she was the one who noticed that Riley’s gender is not defined. As it turns out, this was by design. In an interview with the New York Times, Andrews described this character as a girl, but Emma Walton Hamilton—Andrews’s daughter and the show’s co-creator—demurred. “If pressed, we’d say that she’s a girl, but maybe not forever. We wanted to be as diverse as possible.” (Fran, who counts finding continuity errors among her many hobbies, did note an instance of Gus referring to Riley as a girl, but, still…) I enjoyed watching Alec Baldwin hamming it up with Andrews so much that I didn’t even care that they were singing. Ellie Kemper’s improv class is adorable (mostly because Ellie Kemper is so freaking adorable), and her Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt comrade Tituss Burgess is also a real treat (his funky musical number took me back to Sesame Street in the 70s). I am generally in favor of kids’ programming that celebrates creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork. And, although the theater isn’t my thing, I can totally get behind a show that’s all about the importance of arts education.

Jessica Jernigan is a writer, editor, and mom-about-town in a mid-sized Midwestern city. You can find her professional website here, but Instagram is where the cat photos are.

Watch Julie's Greenroom on Netflix

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