‘End of the Rainbow’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by November 8, 2018

‘End of the Rainbow’ was written by Colchester-born Peter Quilter; it is part concert, part musical and high drama, relating Judy Garland’s final years, and her death in June 1969. It premiered at the Sydney Opera House in 2005, before moving to London. Broadway followed seven years later.

This co-production is thanks to the Koorliny Arts Centre and the Kwinana Industries Council. Due to adult themes, this show is advised as most suitable for people over 15 yrs. This 120-minute show can be seen in Cabaret Style, with unreserved seating, at the Koorliny Theatre 2. The performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8.00 until 24th November, with SATURDAY matinées at 2.00 pm on the 17th and 24th.

Bring your own nibbles, but drinks are available as it is a licenced venue.

 

The scene: is Christmas 1968 in London. Judy Garland, after some harrowing years, is making a comeback.

The set: Jon Lambert’s set design is sumptuous. We are in room 301, an upmarket hotel suite. It is an open stage, with the top of the proscenium arch raised about 1.5 metres to give a vastness to the room.

The walls are papered with vintage seamless shadow, floral paper. The very pale, pistachio green of the paper matched the full length, three-metre curtains. The rear wall is mainly a block (3m x 3m) of frosted windowpanes. In the nightclub scenes, this window splits vertically, opening to reveal the ‘Top of The Town’ band positioned behind. The construction of this solid attractive set was by Jon Lambert and Allen Blachford, with the decoration assisted by Stephen McGarrity and Kate McIntosh.

There is a dark wood, grand piano, although the group of musicians supplied all of the music.

The props include a pale green and gold, Victorian chaise longue with a matching chair. Naturally, there is a laden drinks trolley with numerous crystal decanters. The telephone, transistor radio and two, six globe chandeliers were all perfect for the 1960s. Superb set dressing by Natalie Burbage and Brad Tudor, with additional props supplied by Shanice Palfrey and Jon Lambert.

Jon Lambert’s lighting design was of a very high standard, with the hotel room being transformed into an opulent nightclub, by clever use of the lighting colours and angle. The final scene has a powerful spotlight placed a metre off the floor, pointing parallel to the stage at Judy. Alex Coutts-Smith, who always manages to make the difficult seem simple, smoothly controlled the sound, AV, and lighting. Alex had various concealed speakers to ensure the sound effects worked perfectly.

Then there were extras such as the Daily Mirror newspaper displaying Judy’s arrival in London, Chris Ingram’s photography and the fascinating AV clips at the end of the show.

Stage manager Shanice Palfrey, with Brittney Kirk and Steve Shanaz acting as her crew managed to keep the bottles full and the glasses rotating. The scene changes between the hotel room and the performing venues, was smooth and efficient.

 

      Staggering into her hotel room, Judy Garland (Rachel Monamy) whinges about its tiny size, only to be reminded by her American manager, Mickey Deans (Laurence Williams) that this was already more than she could afford. In fact, thanks to her drink and drug bills being more than her earnings, there were accounts from 10 years earlier still awaiting payment.

      Despite her international success, Judy lacked even basic confidence in her singing, and desperately needed love. After four husbands, she now had her eye on Mickey, he responded, but his main interest was to get her on the stage each night – by any means! Just as Judy was starting to seduce her new fiancé – Mickey – her pianist arrived.

      Anthony (Peter Shaw), her gay accompanist from Brighton, was initially simply a fan, but after playing on Judy’s disastrous tour in Melbourne, he had become her loyal father figure. Knowing that Judy was suffering, Anthony’s aim was to bring her back to health and give her security.

       During a radio interview, a BBC Announcer (Jon Lambert) dressed in a Slazenger, diamond patterned golfing jumper was mocked by the semi inebriated Judy.

       What does the future hold for our beloved singer?

 

Director, Brad Tudor has presented many quality shows, but this must be one of his most challenging yet. His faithful, talented team of Kate McIntosh (Musical Director) and Allen Blachford as the Movement / Choreography supervisor back him to the hilt. Kate McIntosh’s band comprises Kate on keyboard, on percussion was Luke Casserly (with Baily Bridgman-Peters on standby), Chris Ingram on double bass and the group was rounded off with Wayne Griffiths on woodwind. The musicians created an instantly recognisable nightclub sound, and with just the correct balance of instruments, they did not overpower the singer.

Brad Tudor has reproduced Judy’s most famous outfits. The scarlet ball gown, with matching feather boa and diamond accessories, topped off with the famous ruby shoes. Judy’s silver, sequined velour jacket, black skirt, and scarf knotted around her neck. Then there was the copper trouser suit that Judy detested. All garments beautifully made by Brad Tudor, Margaret Willison, Natalie Burbage, and Shanice Palfrey.

Over the years, Koorliny has produced dozens of extremely popular youth musicals, but I think this is the first powerful drama-based musical. Brad’s major challenge was to create sympathy for the songstress, without it being too unctuous. The magnificently written script kept the audience on the emotional rollercoaster, sympathising one minute as insecure Judy collapses, and then cursing her for being so bloody stupid, as she runs for the shelter of her ‘little helpers’.

Judy and Mickey had some very funny, yet savage confrontations that left the audience gasping; Two seconds later, we were being treated to a series of extremely well known hits that even the teenagers in the audience would recognise.

Rachel Monamy did not portray Judy Garland, she WAS Judy. The hair style, the facial expressions, the hand gestures, the hip sway, even the way she held the microphone. Then there was the voice. It had a hint of American accent, the powerful belting voice with the characteristic touch of vibrato, and yet still on pitch. Exceptional. On the drama side, Rachel made even the hardest hearted person in the room feel for Judy’s degrading torment.

A special mention of Laurence Williams who conquered their love-hate relationship wonderfully, and to Peter Shaw as her pianist. Peter, as Anthony (a ‘friend of Dorothy’ as the appropriate expression used to be) gave a poignant, and heart breaking performance as the friend who was secretly, deeply in love with Judy, but had to stand by and watch as the love of his life crumbled. Peter’s whole body language showed his tormented thoughts.

With only around 70-seats per performance, these shows are almost sold out, but try to capture a remaining ticket for this ‘standing ovation’ quality production.