Reviewer: Mark Clegg
Children’s TV shows have always contained music and songs, but in the last decade or so the bar has been raised and some true writing talent has been providing genuinely great tunes that often elevate them to something that can be enjoyed by all age. Netflix has now added to the growing selection of preschool TV show with their latest release. Julie’s Greenroom is a program that teaches life lessons to young children by focussing on performing arts and to this end they have come up with what seems to be the winning combination – the legendary Julie Andrews and the puppets of The Jim Henson Company. Mary Poppins meets Sesame Street perhaps? The Sound of Muppets? Bringing these two tried and tested elements together is a stroke of genius and although the show may be educational and enchanting (and having watched the first episode I can confirm that it is), this soundtrack of songs and music from the show sadly doesn’t quite hit the mark.
The CD is made up of 27 tracks which seems like great value – until you notice that a) the total running time is less than 40 minutes and b) that 15 of these tracks are instrumental. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem except that the instrumental tracks are generally short and rather dull. The songs themselves start very well: the two opening tracks Mash-Up (Theme Song) and Anything Can Happen In the Theater are bouncy and fun and both have welcomed reprises at the end of the soundtrack. However other tracks fall into the trap of being repetitive, overly simple and only having appeal to small children.
The bulk of the singing is carried by Giullian Yao Gioiello as Julie’s sidekick Gus. He is impressively and suitably lively and deserves to break out into musical theatre. Elsewhere guest stars such as Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess (both from Netflix’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), Carol Burnett and David Hyde Pierce join in with the songs – several displaying more talent than the material deserves. Somewhat surprisingly, one of the highlights of the CD is When You Act, an unlikely duet between Andrews and Alec Baldwin. Andrews herself, is of course, a living legend but those used to hearing her perform as Poppins or Maria Von Trapp may be surprised with the deep but still warm tone that her vocal has matured into. Be warned: despite dominating the CD cover, Andrews only appears on four tracks.
Ryan Shore’s songs are stronger lyrically than they are musically with a lot of references that will go over the heads of the target audience but which will score a bullseye with theatre aficionados. However overall the songs pale into comparison to what we are used to hearing on other similar shows such as Sophia the First and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Ultimately it is rather difficult to work out who this CD is aimed at. Pre-schoolers will not be interested in the half of the CD made up of largely down-beat instrumental tracks, musical theatre fans will be frustrated by the lack of scope and short running times of the songs, and childless adults may find it all a bit twee. The intention of the show may be to educate but with such padded content and a big focus on Julie Andrews on the cover, the intention this CD is seemingly to simply be a massive cash grab. Far from practically perfect.
Album now out