Judy Garland is one of those personalities which I have to admit I know very little about. Other than her obvious role in Wizard of Oz her life is a bit of a mystery to me. Needless to say I jumped at the chance of seeing her life story (or part of it at least) re-enacted at Wolverhampton Grand in End Of The Rainbow.
Set in 1968 within the confines of Garland’s London hotel room, End Of The Rainbow depicts the downfall of Judy during her final series of concerts, entitled Talk of the Town. Attempting a return to the limelight after falling from grace, Judy takes on an exhausting six weeks of concerts which are fuelled by a steady stream of drugs and alcohol.
Lisa Maxwell takes on the role of Judy Garland and my god does she perform it. Very rarely have I gotten so lost in a character, completely forgetting that actually isn’t the real Judy. Despite her small stature Lisa packs an incredible punch with a variety of show tunes perfectly placed between scenes.
It’s no secret that Judy had many men in her life. In 1968 it was her fifth and final husband, Mickey Deans, played by Sam Attwater. Judy is desperately looking for someone to take care of her, the result of growing up too quickly. Whilst Mickey seems to be her knight in shining amour at the start, this soon comes crashing down when he in fact starts fuelling her drug and booze binges in the hope of helping her complete the tour. Sam and Lisa have a superb relationship on stage and you clearly see they have fun doing it.
It’s important not to forget the ‘other’ man in Judy’s life during this time, her pianist Anthony Chapman, played by Gary Wilmot. I’ve seen Gary before but only in pantomime – it was great to see him taking on a more somber role. A crutch for Judy during the difficult times, Gary oozes compassion as Antony for the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with (platonically that is).
End Of The Rainbow is a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute you find yourself laughing with Judy as she ridicules Mickey, before shortly realising that this is just a coping mechanism and that behind all the bravado there is a scared little girl.
With such a small cast the chemistry has to be perfect and Lisa, Sam and Gary really delivered. A fantastic performance all round of a period that many will know very little about.
End Of The Rainbow plays at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Wednesday 20 April. For more information and tickets visit http://www.grandtheatre.co.uk/