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Scott's Theatre Beat: End of the Rainbow

April 2012

Somewhere At Then End of the Rainbow


There was no pot of gold at the end of Judy Garland’s rainbow and End of the Rainbow written by Peter Quilter and directed by Terry Johnson gives us a view of Garland near the end of her long, slow downward spiral that was fueled by drugs and booze.  This is not a happy play but it is good theatre. It is a play with superb music but it is not a musical. It is an emotional roller-coaster that is at times exciting, upsetting, funny, sad, but above all else entertaining.


The play is set in Judy Garland’s hotel suite at the Ritz Hotel in London and at the club The Toast of the Town for which she is making what will be her last "comeback concert.”  It’s a five week stand, Judy is broke, and with her is her manager and soon to be fifth husband Mickey Deans and Anthony her British pianist who has worked with her before. The task of keeping Garland sober and drug free falls principally on these two men and we see how each becomes an enabler in different ways.


Tracie Bennett doesn’t simply impersonate Judy Garland, she is Judy Garland, her physical mannerisms and quirkiness, her haughtiness, imperiousness, pleading, tortured vulnerability and her voice. And it is Judy’s voice in 1968, worn down husky, vibrato-filled, without the smoothness of the voice of her 1961 Carnegie hall "comeback” concert.  Ms. Bennett gives pitch-perfect versions of some of Garland’s iconic songs of Garland's repertoire, including "The Man That Got Away," "Come Rain, Come Shine" and "Dancing in the Dark."


Tom Pelphrey is excellent as Mickey Deans a night-club owner from New York, younger than Garland, who is trying to get her back on track as a performer but ultimately, in fear and desperation,  becomes an enabler to get her through the commitments he has made for her performances. 


Michael Cumpsty is perfectly cast as Garland’s pianist who has worked with her in the past. He knows the tricks she uses to hide drugs and also understands the need she has for both the booze and drugs. He sees where she is headed and tries to get her to go away with him to live far from all the pressures of the show business world.


Ultimately it doesn’t matter what these men want her to be.  She is the product of her life on stage.  A life controlled by everyone but herself and Traci Bennett shows us the confusion and loss of self that consumed Garland at the end, one minute focused and in control and the next a lost child desperate for someone to understand who she really is.


William Dudley did both the sets and costumes. His set is effective and efficient in the scene changes from the hotel suite to the nightclub stage.  The costumes are also well conceived evoking the period and conveying the contrast between Judy on stage and off.  Christopher Akerlind’s lighting design works well with the set design and adds beautifully to the changing moods of the action.

©  Scott L. Bennett, Jr. 2012

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