END OF THE RAINBOW: Peter Quilter
Touring: till 26 November
Runs: 2h 20m, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray: 20 10 11 (at Hippodrome, Birmingham)
Engrossing, moving, theatrical tour de force
A hugely powerful drama with a theatrical tour de force from Tracie Bennett as Judy.
Judy Garland is one of a sizeable handful of super-star performers whose personal anguish is the driving force behind both their success and their self-destruction. Such behaviour is endlessly fascinating to us, and we can ‘tut’ along at their recklessness, but most importantly we want their art,which is frequently like saying we want part of them.
Peter Quilter has created a fine script through which Judy Garland’s final months can be examined through her eyes; is is a perfect platform on which the company builds a performance experience that is theatrical, engrossing and painful. He creates the story around her engagement to the, much younger, Mickey Deans, and Garland’s 5 week appearance at London’s Talk of the Town. Many of the star’s songs are performed; what is thrilling is that these musical numbers illuminate the scenes and the scenes illuminate the musical interventions.
Tracie Bennett is breath-taking. Her physical and vocal embodiment of the self-destructive performer is total, whether she is being witty, drugged or throwing herself, clownlike, around. Physically, in her numbers at the Talk of the Town, she seems to be both detached from her songs and attached to them at the same time; the results are surprising and mesmerising. Judy Garland sings in front of us. And pain oozes from every pore – you could weep.
Hilton McRae (her accompanist, Anthony) and Norman Bowman (Mickey) create their roles with quiet commitment – they allow the star to shine but are never over-shadowed. I much admire the way emotions ebb and flow, we can never be certain how true emotions are – yet we sense, at the very least, real affection.
Terry Johnson has orchestrated the whole with a deft touch, seamlessly merging on- and off-stage to great effect.
Judy: Tracie Bennett
Anthony: Hilton McRae
Mickey: Norman Bowman
Radio Interviewer / Porter / ASM: Robert Maskell
Director: Terry Johnson
Designer: William Dudley
Lighting: Simon Corder
Sound: Gareth Owen
Musical Supervision Gareth Valentine
Musical Director: Jon Ranhger
Arranger: Chris Egan
Sound Operators: Piers Archer, Michael Ryles