End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter
Reflections by GVPTA blogger Gerald Williams
I’m a fan of Judy Garland. Like every young person since The Wizard of Oz came out in 1939 I was enthralled by this 'aw shucks' girl whose gumption outsmarted that wicked witch. As an early teen and aspiring film buff I discovered her movies with Mickey Rooney, released in the 1940’s, and watched her grow up. All the while I was discovering her, she was in her final years, riding the drugs and booze that eventually ended her life.
End of the Rainbow takes place in 1969 a few months before her death, and during the five weeks she was in London doing a stint at a nightclub. The play by Peter Quilter opens with Judy’s accompanist (played by Gordon Roberts) playing the piano in the hotel suite which makes up the set. This unobtrusive opening is a beautiful way of bringing the audience into the atmosphere of the time. When Judy and her soon to be final husband, Mickey Deans (Jeffery Hoffman), crash into the scene we are immediately brought to the destructive dynamic of the relationship she has with men and with herself; the need for alcohol and drugs, the heightened sexuality, the use of her celebrity to gain unearned favours. We know the end of the story, but there is enough detail to keep us fully engaged with a good smattering of recognizable tidbits to make us feel the impulse to keep watching this tragedy with music.
Included in the play are a number of songs and pieces of songs to whet the appetite of any Garland fan, or poke the curiosity of those who aren’t as familiar with her music or the music of that era. I found myself humming A Foggy Day in London Town on the way out of the theatre. I also wondered how long will Judy Garland keep her place in the public imagination. Will she have the life span of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe? Will she ever become a poster as popular as Albert Einstein. During the play, references are made to those in Garland’s celebrity sphere; Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Deanna Durbin. I bet most people under 70 years of age have no idea who Deanna Durbin is. I expect Dean Martin and Sammy Davis have little life for anyone under 50. Fame, or celebrity, is fleeting, yet, thanks largely to the Munchkins, Glinda, those ruby slippers, and stories like End of the Rainbow, Judy Garland will always be relevant to audiences. If you know who got the heart, who got the courage and who got the brains, you’ll enjoy this play. I did.
Cast: Janet Gigliotti, Jeffery Hoffman, Gordon Roberts and Matthew Simmons
ACE Productions presents the English Canadian premiere or End of the Rainbow, April 26 - May 20, 2017 at the Jericho Arts Centre.