End of the Rainbow
Chuck Lavazzi – OnSTL, June 30, 2018
There’s no doubt about it, Angela Ingersoll is Judy Garland in Max and Louie Productions’ End of the Rainbow, and I don’t know how she does it every night.
This harrowing look at the star’s final flameout during a five-week run at London’s Talk of the Town nightclub in late 1968/early 1969 (just months before her death from a barbiturate overdose) can be difficult to watch because Ms. Ingersoll’s performance is so convincing, and also because the script by Peter Quilter is so unrelenting in its look at Garland’s disastrous private life, with its insecurity, financial ruin, and drug and alcohol addiction.
Fortunately the concert performances interspersed with the backstage drama are spectacular, and the five-piece band directed by Thomas Conroy (who also turns in a compelling performance as Garland’s fictional pianist and admirer, Anthony) adds real punch to every number.
There’s great work here as well by Kyle Hatley as Garland’s last husband, Mickey Deans. As written, Deans is seriously conflicted, trying to save Garland from her self while still keeping her happy-or at least placated. Mr. Hately allows us to see both the love and pain.
Paul Cereghino shows versatility in multiple roles as a stoic porter, distracted assistant stage manager, and somewhat smarmy BBC interviewer.
The high drama of Garland’s backstage life became a bit much at times and started to feel a bit numbing, at least to me. I also thought that focusing more on Garland’s offstage excesses rather than her onstage success robbed her of some dignity. More of Judy Garland the legendary performer and less of Judy Garland the nervous wreck would have been preferable.
That said, nobody should miss Ms. Ingersoll’s stunning performances of Garland’s hits, such as her heartbreaking “The Man That Got Away,” or her “Come Rain or Come Shine,” in which Garland is just inches away from completely losing control. It’s like watching a high wire act without a net.
Bracing and tragic, End of the Rainbow is a powerful tribute to Garland’s genius and madness. Performances continue through this Sunday, July 1st, at the Grandel Theatre.