NY1 Theater Review: "End Of The Rainbow"
Stage and screen icon Judy Garland is the center of the new Broadway play with music, "End of the Rainbow." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
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Cliche as it may sound, "End Of The Rainbow," depicting the last days of Judy Garland's life is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. And as portrayed by petite powerhouse Tracie Bennett, it's impossible to look away.
It's 1968 and Judy has come to London with her fiancee Mickey Deans to stage yet another comeback. At age 46, drugs and alcohol have taken a heavy toll and Deans, who's much younger and acting as her manager, tries desperately to keep her clean. The third character in this drama is Judy's adoring accompanist, a Scotsman named Anthony.
That's basically all there is to Peter Quilter's play which is little more than a tidy vehicle to show off the enormous talents of its star.
There truly are few words to describe the skill, range and stamina in this incredible performance. Bennett's Garland buzzes with wild tics and emotions. High one minute, crashing the next, she comes dangerously close to parody. It's hard to believe anyone could actually be that manic all the time.
Then she sings some of Garland's most famous tunes backed by a terrific five-piece band. It's uncanny how she channels Garland's voice and inflections. More than that, she fuses the music into the character so that it's not just a song we're hearing, it's an extension of Garland's gloriously sad life.
Michael Cumpsty offers a fine counterpoint as a gentle gay man who sincerely loves the fallen icon. Tom Pelphrey captures the shades of an exasperated partner whose motives aren't entirely pure.
Terry Johnson's direction allows Bennett to own the stage and somehow by the end, she manages to make all that crazy, self-indulgent, contradictory behavior seem absolutely real.
Garland died of a drug overdose several months later. "End Of The Rainbow" isn't a pretty play but it does allow one rising mega-talent to remind us of the greatness of another.