To the 'End of the Rainbow' With Judy Garland
BY Trudy Ring
April 03 2013 5:00 AM ET
Pushing her along is Mickey Deans, the much younger nightclub impresario who is now managing Judy’s career on his way to becoming her fifth husband. Erik Heger plays Deans as equal parts charm and smarm; he makes you see why Judy would be attracted to him and makes you believe — almost — that he has her best interests at heart, but eventually you realize that he’s mostly interested in himself and is ultimately bad for her.
Someone who drives home this last point is Judy’s piano accompanist Anthony, played by Michael Cumpsty. Anthony is a composite character, based on the numerous gay men who loved and supported Garland, and in many ways he’s the conscience of the piece. He admires Judy but is willing to call her out on her bad behavior; unlike Deans, he truly wants what’s best for her. He even offers her a quiet life with him in a platonic relationship in his country cottage, although they both recognize that’s an impossible dream. Played by Cumpsty with an appealing Scottish brogue, he’s funny, sweet, and warm.
Miles Anderson rounds out the cast capably in multiple minor parts, with the standout being a BBC radio host who finds Garland an extremely difficult interview subject.
Quilter’s wonderful script is witty as well as poignant, and it’s ably directed by Terry Johnson. William Dudley’s sets and costumes are gorgeous, and the musicians accompanying Bennett-as-Garland are superb.
So, if you’re a Judy Garland fan, it’s well worth seeing. Even if you’re not, it still is — afterward you’ll need to watch or listen to the real Judy to get a full idea of why so many people, gay men and others, continue to adore her, and why certain women would love to sing like her, but End of the Rainbow will give you a good start.
Performances of End of the Rainbow are scheduled through April 21 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Click your mouse (not your heels) here for tickets and more info.