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End of the Rainbow

a Drama w/ Comedy & Music
by Peter Quilter

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4581

SHOWING : May 17, 2014 - June 15, 2014



It’s December 1968, and Judy Garland makes one last stab at a comeback. In a London hotel room with her young new fiancé, pills and cocktail at her side, Garland prepares for a series of high profile concerts. Garland’s razor sharp wit, mammoth talent and raw determination battle with her inner demons to create a tornado of drama as she tries to reclaim her crown as the greatest talent of a generation. Featuring many of Garland’s signature anthems, including "The Man that Got Away," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

Director Freddie Ashley
Judy Garland Natasha Drena
Mickey Deans Tony Larkin
Radio Announcer John Lemley
Anthony Bill Newberry
ASM Ben Silver
Porter Jordan Snead
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A Bender End
by playgoer
Monday, May 19, 2014
"End of the Rainbow" by Peter Quilter tells a story from the last year of Judy Garland’s life. She is engaged to small-time entrepreneur Mickey Deans, who has dismissed her staff and gotten her a six-week gig at a London nightclub. He is also attempting (with limited success) to wean her from pills and booze and pay off Ms. Garland’s enormous debts. Gay piano player Anthony has the same general goals, but doesn’t approve of Mickey. Action plays out in the hotel room Judy and Mickey are sharing, at the nightclub, and in a radio studio.

Leslie Taylor’s scenic design melds these three locations neatly, letting the elegant hotel room fill up a corner of the black box space, with a curtain being drawn behind a false proscenium to indicate the night club, with the same piano used for both the hotel room and the night club. The scrim wall behind the piano reveals a trio of musicians for the night club scenes. The radio studio is suggested by two chairs and a tiny table at the corner of the proscenium. Joseph P. Monaghan III’s lighting design delineates the separate playing spaces nicely.

Costumes, designed by Alan Yeong, do a good job of indicating the time period of the play (1968/1969). There’s a very nice approximation of the pantsuit that was designed for Ms. Garland for "Valley of the Dolls," and that she kept possession of following her firing from the movie, using it in her public appearances. All the other costumes are good too.

Natasha Drena’s vocal performance in the nightclub scenes is stupendous. Her acting is first-rate throughout too, but the Garland fan I attended the show with thought Ms. Drena didn’t have the natural comic delivery of Ms. Garland and thought her speaking voice was too reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn, with a line-ending vocalization reminiscent of SNL’s "That’s Pat." He wasn’t impressed with Tony Larkin as Mickey Deans, but I thought Mr. Larkin showed a lot of intensity. As for Bill Newberry as the third major character, Anthony, his performance is generally fine, although his English accent is perfunctory at best. The other three members of the cast, all playing small roles, have nice British accents and nice stage presence.

"End of the Rainbow" isn’t a very cheery play, but it does a nice job of portraying the final failed comeback of a cultural icon. It’s certainly a fine showcase for the talents of Natasha Drena, who has portrayed Judy Garland before. Director Freddie Ashley has staged the play with a lot of intense action, some of it taking place on the floor, which may not work well for first-row viewers, whose line of sight is obscured by a few café tables and chairs on the audience side of the proscenium to give the impression of a nightclub venue. Even so, there’s enough movement in the blocking to keep the show visually exciting.

This may not be the most groundbreaking work Actor’s Express has presented this season, but it’s a nicely professional production that takes the audience into the world of Judy Garland in the last year of her life. For Garland fans (or Drena fans), this is a must-see. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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