End of the Rainbow gives us an intimate look into the tragic end of Judy Garland's life

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End of the Rainbow | Ace Productions | Jericho Arts Centre | April 26 – May 20, 2017  

“Give me the phone!” yells Judy Garland as she teeters on the window ledge outside her London hotel room. Her Scottish pianist, Anthony Chapman, reluctantly passes her the phone and she proceeds to guilt the hotel manager into getting an extension on their bill. This is just one of the erratic moments that we see from Garland as she spirals closer to self-destruction in this gripping drama set during her comeback run of shows in 1960s London.

Janet Gigliotti embodies the spirit of Judy Garland — her joy, her frenzied outbursts, and her gift of song. We’re immediately shown her eccentricities as she insists that her hotel room is smaller than the others, while her fifth fiancé, Mickey Deans (Jeffrey Hoffman), tries to tell her they are all the same.

The set transported us to the 60s with furniture from the era. With a piano upstage, that served for both hotel room rehearsals and performances, the space transformed well from her hotel room to the “Talk of the Town” theatre where Judy performed. It was complete with a rainbow archway with inset coloured lights.

Upon first hearing from him, it seemed that Deans was too young and meek for the role of Garland’s husband-to-be, but after his age was finally acknowledged this helped to validate the casting choice. He seemed to take a while to get comfortable in the role, but as things became more intense he eased into his husband/manager duality and moved from doting to controlling very quickly. He seemed much more comfortable in the role when he was got to be angry.

Garland brings up her former husbands quite often, which irks Deans and sets off many of their fights. Another source of tension is her constant requests for drugs or alcohol, which Mickey refuses — until Garland refuses to sing without them.

Deans also clashes with Chapman (Gordon Roberts) who cares deeply about Garland and sees Deans as exploiting her talents for his own ends. Roberts was wonderful as the sensitive Chapman who offers to take care of Garland and even proposes that she come live with him in the country where they could have a quiet life away from all her troubles. Garland seems to feel an unexplained loyalty to Deans and turns him down.

The moment between Chapman and Garland shows her desire for a different kind of life while at the same time feeling trapped in the only one she’s ever known. “I don’t want to be loved up there; I want to be loved down here,” she laments, admitting that the love of her fans can never fill the void she feels in her private life.

Some other brilliant lines that come out of Garland’s mouth include: “I could vomit my dinner in their laps and still be glamorous,” “Whenever I drink water I always feel like I’m missing out on something,” and ““My chin and tits are in a race to my knees.”

Some of the best moments, though, are during her “Talk of the Town” sets when she seems the most at peace. Songs on her set list included “I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby,” “Just in Time,” “You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It),” “The Trolley Song,” “The Man that Got Away,” “When You’re Smiling,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” and of course, “Over the Rainbow.”

Garland has a self-assured attitude that seems unwavering until her public persona starts to crack. Her BBC radio interview is a disaster and soon after she leaves the theatre during a show to find a drink. Deans tries everything to convince her that she needs to go back to the theatre and finish the show. There is a great deal of forced tenderness, and he finally offers to let her have a pill if she’ll go back.

Garland ended up marrying Deans, but she died three months later in 1969. This is a compelling story of the beginning of the tragic end for this bright star who burned out much too early. 

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