The location was a paved, covered parking lot in Fairfield rather than the Austrian Alps as Terese Lako of Shelton heard a familiar voice Thursday afternoon singing, "The hills are alive with the sound of music."
"I looked around to see where (Julie Andrews' voice) was coming from," Lako said. She knew the Academy Award-winning actress was nearby because she was scheduled to appear at the Fairfield University Bookstore. For a moment Lako wondered if the voice she heard was Andrews singing live. It was actually "The Sound of Music" soundtrack blaring from another fan's nearby car stereo.
Inside the bookstore an estimated 400 people raised their voices in song: "Do, a deer, a female deer ...," they sang, another classic from "The Sound of Music," as they waited in line to meet the 77-year-old singer, actress and, more recently, children's book author.
Andrews was at the downtown Fairfield University Bookstore to promote her latest book -- "The Very Fairy Princess Follows Her Heart" (Little Brown) -- her 27th collaboration with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, who did not attend the book-signing, and the fifth in their New York Times best-selling Very Fairy Princess series. "There will soon be a sixth of this series," Andrews told one fan.
The actress, who began her film career in 1964 in the title role of "Mary Poppins" -- for which she earned an Oscar, and continued her star roles as Maria in the 1965 film "The Sound of Music," took time to interact with each person.
"She took time to speak with us and ask how our day was. It was genuine. I wouldn't have expected anything less of her," said Fairfield University student Jennifer Fiorillo of Babylon, New York.
The fans, however, had to be satisfied with Andrews' signature in their newly acquired copies of her book.
The publicity team and Fairfield University Bookstore staff tightly controlled access to Andrews, and fans were not allowed to take photos.
The press also was prevented from photographing the aging songstress by her publicity team and by Fairfield U. bookstore and public relations staffers unless they first agreed to allow Andrews' publicity team to review the photos they took and clear them for publication. Two journalists refused to agree to the terms, which violate standard journalistic practices, including this reporter for the Fairfield Citizen.
There also were no interviews granted to the press.
Despite the tight cocoon placed around Andrews by her handlers, fans nevertheless appeared pleased with a fleeting word from the star.
"How lucky I am to have that," she said to Claudia Hepfer, 8, of Trumbull, who gave Andrews a bouquet of pink roses. After Claudia and her sister Anna Hepfer, 11, hugged the actress she told the girls, "I like getting hugs."
Julia Hepfer, the girls' mother, wiped tears from her eyes after meeting Andrews. "I grew up with her and I'm growing up with her again as my children are watching her movies and reading her books," said Hepfer. "The Princess Diaries" is one of her daughters' favorite Andrews' movies.
Singer Lauren Lichac, 18, of Orange, talked about music with Andrews, who told the young soprano "That's the greatest thrill, singing with an orchestra." "Her voice is so beautiful. I'm a soprano and she's an inspiration that you want to live up to," Lichac said later.
Kelly Russo, 17, of Norwalk, was equally taken with her encounter with the star. "It's so surreal meeting someone that you dreamed of meeting your whole life and having her speak to you," she said.
As Andrews signed a book for Christine Niedermeier, the former state representative and Fairfield selectman told Andrews that she has seen "The Sound of Music" more than 100 times.
"I've never met a celebrity before and I love her. I think she's a class act," said Devan Conroy of Middletown, New Jersey, a Fairfield University student.
Fellow student Danielle Anctil of Litchfield, N.H., said she has been a fan of Andrews' books since she read "Mandy," which she called "a heart-felt story."
As part of the tightly controlled event, Fairfield University Bookstore staff also refused to allow reporters to interview people waiting in line inside the store, even after sending out advance releases asking the press to publicize Andrews' appearance and book promotion. Reporters and photographers were instructed to stand outside the store to conduct any interviews, a change from earlier events at the bookstore.
Jill Dion, an editor for Hersam Acorn publications, did not stay to photograph Andrews or interview fans after she learned of the restrictions.
"As a reporter for a long time I was surprised at the restrictions. There are certain rules in journalism. To compromise on those is to compromise your standards. Regardless, I'm still a Julie Andrews fan," Dion said.