|END OF THE RAINBOW
About End of the Rainbow
If you like your stars ragged and exposed, raunchy and self-involved, then you’ll love the British import about the last days of the legendary Judy Garland’s life, from playwright, Peter Quilter, entitled “End of the Rainbow.” But the real star here is in Tracie Bennett whose interpretation of the famed singer is a tour-de-force performance.
Bennett captures Garland’s guttural growl, her physical idiosyncrasies, and her throaty laugh, to a finely tuned tee. It’s an amazing transformation into the Garland beloved by millions of fans. She’s joined onstage by Tom Pelprey as her last husband, Mickey Deans, a young, brash and abusive enabler, and, representing all of Garland’s fans, particularly her large gay following is Michael Cumpsty, as her sympathetic musical director.
Garland and entourage park themselves on William Dudley’s ostentatious set of London’s Ritz Hotel preparing a series of concerts for a venue called Talk of the Town. Dudley also designed the costumes which fans will recognize as recreations of her famous glittery wardrobe.
In the late sixties era of free-wheeling sex and drugs, Garland was the poster-child for a rehab that had yet to be invented. Struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, the former star of “The Wizard of Oz” was as much a bottomless well of talent as she was an insecure and exhausted performer. “End of the Rainbow,” directed in broad strokes by Terry Johnson, chooses to concentrate on her darkest side. The play is a relentlessly ugly portrayal of someone known in real life to be witty and charming. However, the script doesn’t allow for Garland’s warm and fuzzy side and, as a result, it’s hard to imagine why anyone stayed loyal to the star beyond the possibility of a big pay check.
The crowing achievement in “End of the Rainbow” is Tracie Bennett. She fills the stage with the uncanny power and presence of the real legend able to bring subtle shadings to what could easily have become a caricature. Her achievement is, simply, phenomenal. It’s one of those star turns that will be forever be remembered.
BY LESLEY ALEXANDER
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Tracie Bennett, Michael Cumpsty, Tom Pelphrey, Jay Russell
111 West 44th Street
Neighborhood: Times Square
New York, NY 10036
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