End of the Rainbow

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Judy Garland

By Peter Quilter.

Directed by Michael Weber.

Music director: Jon Steinhagen.

Featuring the Judy Garland songbook.

Produced by Porchlight Musicals.

At Stage 773, Chicago.

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
 
“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.”
 
“In the silence of night I have often wished for just a few words of love from one man, rather than the applause of thousands of people.”

“Whenever I drink water, I feel like I’m missing out on something” -Judy Garland.

Legendary Judy Garland comes to life in stunning performance by Angela  Ingersoll.

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There have been many Judy Garland impersonators who have paid tribute to the genius of Garland but few have the acting chops, the looks and the vocal range to ‘play’ Judy Garland, the woman in the last troubled days of her life.  Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm; June 10, 1922 – June 22, 1969) was an actress, comedian, singer who has been called “The Greatest Entertainer that ever lived! We know her form all the fabulous MGM musical films made in the late 30-40’s. Garland was a charismatic live entertainer who played concerts all over the world. She was a troubled soul who was addicted to pills, alcohol and suffered from self-doubt and self-esteem issues. But she was also the hardest working actor/singer ever.

Playwright Peter Quilter has penned a look into the last days of Garland in London in 1969 in End of the Rainbow – a drams with music.  The press notes state:

“It’s December 1968 and Judy Garland is about to make her comeback….again. In a London hotel room, with both her new young fiancé and her adoring accompanist, Garland struggles to get “beyond the rainbow” with her signature cocktail of talent, tenacity and razor-sharp wit. Featuring some of Garland’s most memorable songs, this savagely funny play with music offers unique insight into the inner conflict that inspired and consumed one of the most beloved figures in American history.”

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We  see Garland (Angela Ingersoll) with her new fiance, Mickey Deans (Kyle Hatley) as they arrive in London for a six-week concert. Garland is broke and Deans is determined to keep her away from pills and booze so that she will be able to perform. We see the addicted, self-destructive Garland use all her persuasion skills in her battle with Mickey for her physical aids. When Garland’s pianist, Englishman Anthony Chapman (Jon Steinhagen), a long-time Garland loyalist, arrives to rehearse, Garland tries  to get him to aid her in getting pills and booze. Much of this bio-drama demonstrates the depths of Garland’s personal destruction.

Angela Ingersoll’s tour de force performance is one of the most powerful and compelling performances seen on a Chicago stage in years! Ingersoll has all the Garland traits down. From the eager-to-please to the rage to the dependence on stimulants to her command of the stage including a velvet voice, Angela Ingersoll is mesmerizing to watch and listen to. She works extremely hard in this production as she dips to the lows and exalts to highs as Garland. After we see Ingersoll crawling on the floor screaming for stimulants, in the next scene we enjoy her landing one of her signature tunes.

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With terrific arrangement by Jon Steinhagen (who also doubles on the piano) the six piece combo deftly accompany Ingersoll as she nails the Garland songbook. We hear:  “Just in Time,” “The Man Who Got Away,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” “I Belong to London,” “You Made Me Love You,” “The Trolley Song,” “For Me and My Gal,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “When You’re Smiling,” “I’ll Find My Way By Myself,” and, of course,  “Over the Rainbow.”

End of the Rainbow is painful to watch as one of my all-time favorites is presented in a most self-destructive yet honest portrayal. I can’t remember seeing a more complete wide-ranging performance than Angela Ingersoll’s Judy Garland. We both feel sad at what happened to her yet we enjoy her magical stage presence and her amazing contralto voice. This bittersweet show is a must see on several levels. As we see the demise of a star, we see the emergence of another star.  Angela Ingersoll performance in this tough role will launch a new phase in her career.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: November 7, 2016.

Jeff Recommended.

For more info checkout the End of the Rainbow page at theatreinchicago.com

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-777-9884, www.porchlightmusictheatre.org, tickets $45 – $51, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2pm, extended performances on Tuesday, Dec. 6 ay 7:30 pm, Friday, Dec 9 at 8 pm, Thursday Dec 8 at 1:30 & 7:30 pm, Friday, Dec 9 at 8 pm, also matinees on Thursday, Nov 17 at 1:30 pm,  and Friday, Nov. 25 at 4 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through December 9, 2016.

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