This was a two show weekend for us as we caught two shows that are closing. Yesterday was the magnificent Dogfight. Today we caught End of the Rainbow, which concludes it’s Tony nominated run next weekend.
End of the Rainbow focuses on Judy Garland in December 1968, just seven months before her death, while she was in London trying to resurrect her career with a series of concerts at Talk of the Town. Her soon-to-be fifth husband, Mickey Deans, was trying to keep her on track. Meanwhile, Anthony, a gay piano player was on hand to rehearse her and be a friend.
Tracie Bennett is astounding as Judy Garland. She owns this role in much the same way that Hugh Jackman became Peter Allen in The Boy from Oz. The roller coaster mood swings and hyper energy radiate from the stage. The decent into another round of drugs and alcohol, as well as the cruelty with which she treats those around her, and is treated by those around her, can make this difficult to watch at times. At the same time, you can’t take your eyes off it because the story and the character are so engaging. And, not only does Bennett channel Garland off stage, she also delivers the vocal goods performing some of Garland’s classics such as “The Trolley Song,” “Over the Rainbow,” “The Man the Got Away” and others.
Bennett is surrounded with a top notch supporting cast. Tom Pelphrey is solid as Deans, who seems to start out with the best of intensions but ends up letting Garland dope again to get through the concert series. Michael Cumpsty is piano player Anthony. He constantly tries to keep her put together without drugs, but ultimately has to walk out because he doesn’t want to be a part of what’s going on. It’s heartbreaking watching that as he really wants to save her.
I’m very happy we caught this before it left Broadway to prepare for the national tour, which starts in L.A. (with Bennett) next spring. She’s also slated to star in a film version. If she comes to your town, make sure to catch the show… and if you’re in NYC and haven’t seen it you’ve got until Sunday, August 19.