Last week I attended the opening night of End Of The Rainbow, the show’s official Los Angeles premiere at downtown’s Ahmanson Theatre. Ever since the show played on Broadway last year, I had been dying to see it, especially after star Tracie Bennett was nominated for a Tony Award for her incredible performance as Hollywood legend Judy Garland (aka Liza Minnelli‘s mom) past her prime.
The show is set in December of 1968, just a couple of months before Ms. Garland tragically passed away at age 47, as she was prepping to make yet another attempt at a comeback over in London. Most of the action takes place in her hotel room (with her friend and piano player Anthony along with her fiancé Mickey Deans), while the performances are staged at The Talk of the Town, which was a club back in the day that hosted many popular artists at the time. Sadly by the end of her life, Judy Garland was quite far from the yellow brick road which made her an icon (a title she still holds). She was constantly battling addictions to pills and alcohol punctuated by bouts of depression and attempts at suicide. Although she was quite troubled (today’s paparazzi would have had a field day with her), Judy’s larger than life personality, sense of humor and spunk shined through even during her darkest hours.
Tracie Bennett’s stunning performance completely blew me away, she literally became Judy before my very eyes, I was enthralled the entire time. Ms. Bennett killed each and every one of the 12 musical numbers which included such standards as “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Get Happy,” “When You’re Smiling,” and of course “Over the Rainbow,” (from The Wizard of Oz) which had me in tears. I had such high expectations for this show, and they were exceeded, it was truly an incredible experience, Tracie’s tour de force turn is not to be missed. The show is playing now through April 21st, do not miss out on seeing End Of The Rainbow, especially if you’re a fan of Judy Garland and Hollywood history.
Forget your troubles, come on get happy!
It’s December 1968, and Judy Garland — in a London hotel room with both her new young fiancé and adoring accompanist — is preparing to make her comeback… again.
In one of the most celebrated performances on both the London and Broadway stage, Tony® Award nominee Tracie Bennett is an irresistible force embodying Garland’s signature cocktail of talent, tenacity and razor-sharp wit in this savagely funny backstage drama.
When Bennett and the band rip into 12 of Judy’s most memorable show-stoppers (including “Over the Rainbow,” “The Trolley Song” and “The Man That Got Away”), you will know that you are witnessing what The New York Times calls “an electrifying interpretation of Judy Garland.”
Bennett’s remarkable performance has made her “the toast of Broadway” (New York Post) and has garnered her the 2012 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play, a 2012 Theatre World Award for Outstanding Debut Performance, along with Tony, Drama Desk and Drama League Award nominations.
PHOTOS | CRAIG SCHWARTZ FOR CENTER THEATRE GROUP