A great advantage of living in Minneapolis is the rich and vibrant theatre scene. There are plenty of opportunities to see amazing theatre in Minneapolis, but the biggest advantage to living in Minneapolis for the theatre enthusiast? The ability to see out of town tryouts for Broadway bound productions.
Disney’s THE LION KING played for three months at the Orpheum Theatre before bringing Pride Rock to Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre in 1997. After closing off-Broadway in 2007, THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS played the Guthrie Theatre for two months before opening on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre. That brings us to END OF THE RAINBOW, the latest production to play Minneapolis before heading to The Great White Way.
END OF THE RAINBOW is a musical drama by Peter Quilter based on the last few months of the legendary Judy Garland’s life. After a disastrous Australian tour and years of prescription drug and alcohol abuse, Ms. Garland (Tracie Bennett) seems determined to make one last comeback at London’s The Talk of The Town to salvage her career. With her much younger and soon-to-be fifth husband, Mickey Deans (Tom Pelphrey) and pianist Anthony (Michael Cumpsty) in tow, Ms. Garland is prepared to take on the 5-week long concert engagement.
It doesn’t take long for us to see the demons that have destroyed Ms. Garland personally. A child star who was at the beck and call of MGM Studios for years. We learn that her dependency on drugs started at the age of 14 to help her make early morning call times on movie sets. That her sorted love live can be attributed to “looking for the one person who loves her for her and not the girl who skipped down the Yellow Brick Road.”
Tracie Bennett reprises her role of Judy Garland from the West End production and gives an exquisite portrayal of Judy Garland. Ms. Bennett does a brilliant job portraying the emotional roller coaster that was Ms. Garland in her finally years. Her sparing with Tom Pelphrey’s Mickey Deans is spot on and makes you feel like you are in fact witnessing a couple mid-arguement. The interaction between Michael Cumpsty’s Anthony and Ms. Bennett’s Judy are loving. Despite their complicated work history, they lean on each other and need each other more than they realize.
The production features hit songs such as “(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow”, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”, “When You’re Smiling”, “The Trolley Song”, “For Me and My Gal”, and “Come Rain or Come Shine”. Each sang with such precision that you can close your eyes an picture Judy Garland actually singing them.
Mark my words… Tracie Bennett will receive a much deserved TONY nomination for her portrayal of Judy Garland. I’d be surprised if we don’t see her walk away with the win during the ceremony on June 10.
If you’re in New York City and have the chance to see END OF THE RAINBOW, do it. You won’t regret this. Judy Garland was once America’s sweetheart and her life still captivates millions of people world wide. In the celebrity obsessed world we live in today, there is one line that Tom Pelphrey’s Mickey Deans says that still rings true today; “People love Judy, but they love her even more when she’s trying to climb her way back to the top”.
END OF THE RAINBOW begins previews at the Belasco Theatre 111 West 44th Street in New York City on March 19. More information on the show and tickets can be found online.