Saturday, May 5, 2012


Do you practice Judy-ism? I am not a faithful devotee, but I do believe in her. Maybe it's a generational thing - my diva worshipdom starts with Barbra and Madonna (and all in between) however, the story of Judy Garland - as fascinating as it is - seems to be a story we have all heard before, and we will hear again. Judy Garland, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston - sometimes they all just bend to one cliched story, where an artist cannot contain their own talent, and falls prey to demons. END OF THE RAINBOW tells the story of Judy's demons as it affected her. It's 1968, and she is in London to do a series of "comeback" shows. For the moment, she is clean, but is she? Tracie Bennett doesn't give us an impersonation, she gives us a real human being, and it just happens to be Judy Garland. In all my years of theatergoing, I very rarely see such an exhaustive "complete" performance, and Bennett delivers it. How she gets the stamina to perform the role this way, I will never know, but she is mesmerizing on stage. You cannot take your eyes off her, and the production will not let you, anyway. Perhaps because they know the limitations of the play, they put her front and center at all times, sometimes to distract the written word she is saying. Some people have complained about how she is being portrayed, and some have even said it is false. I don't really know, but I have read some Garland biographies that describe similar stories. They say someone on all those pills should be more lethargic than manic. Judyism fanatics scoff at their idol being portrayed this way. I do think people who only mildly know her story will see her in a more sympathetic light. I would not say that this play is a literary masterpiece, but because of Bennett's performance on that stage, what I saw on stage was exhilarating, depressing, magnetic, and kind of sad - probably just like Judy Garland herself.

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