Set during the few months before Judy Garland’s death in 1969, END OF THE RAINBOW tells all with intensity and compassion. According to playwright Peter Quilter, this play started out as a fictional account about a troubled singer. But when everyone he knew told him that it sounded just like Judy Garland’s life, Quilter had a change of heart, did some careful research, and re-wrote the play about the last days of Oz-iconic Dorothy, better known to her devoted fans as Judy Garland. END OF THE RAINBOW premiered in the famous Sydney Opera House in 2005 and has played internationally since that time. The successful 2012 Broadway production delighted audiences and was later reprised at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
END OF THE RAINBOW has been described as a metaphor for unattainable goals – just as the pot of gold at rainbow’s end will never be found. Despite her success as a singer and actor, Judy Garland continued to long for the perfect love which eluded her throughout her life – even after six marriages. And lots of alcohol and pills.
END OF THE RAINBOW has again returned to Southern California in 2017. The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts/McCoy Rigby Entertainment production stars Angela Ingersoll, described as “the actress with the astounding voice” by the Chicago Sun Times when she recently appeared in the same role in Chicago.
It is December 1968, and Judy Garland (Angela Ingersoll) is staying at the Ritz Hotel while she makes her London comeback from a faltering career – and hopefully turns her life around. Her retinue includes her young fiancé Mickey Deans (Zachary Ford) and her adoring accompanist Anthony (John Steinhagen). While she fights her inner demons – fueled by a strong cocktail of alcohol and drugs – her explosive personality and razor wit also erupt into fireworks with her fiancé – especially when he tries to remove the drugs she has come to rely upon for her very existence.
Judy’s only leverage seems to be her stage performances, which are supporting the pair; but her strongest asset slowly morphs into her biggest liability. She cannot live a normal life if she’s always high – but she also cannot perform if she’s clean and sober. A conundrum, to be sure. And made more poignant by her anger at her current partner, who’s trying to help her the best way he knows how; and her crippling fear that he may leave her. No matter how much love surrounds her, she is impervious and continues to long for a love she does not have.
END OF THE RAINBOW is a potent and penetrating slice of Judy Garland’s life, and the formidable Ms. Ingersoll brilliantly depicts her pain, her fears, and her manic confusion. To add the cherry on top, Angela Ingersoll has a powerful voice that eerily mimics Garland’s; and those strong vocal cords enchant the audience as they enjoy some of Judy Garland’s biggest hits. This is Judy Garland’s show, and Angela Ingersoll has cloned her to a tee. Audience Alert: Don’t expect Dorothy of the dancing red shoes in this musical. This is the nitty-gritty back story about a Hollywood icon on a downward spiral.
Kudos to award-winning director Michael Matthews, who manages to carry off this sleight-of-hand with apparent ease. Bill Morey’s costumes add the glitz that surrounded La Garland in her heyday. Stephen Gifford’s scenic design, Steven Young’s lighting, and Josh Bessom’s sound competently add to the ambiance. And let’s not forget Jon Steinhagen, who doubles as Anthony and musical director for the production (with more than a little assistance by his talented six-member band).
END OF THE RAINBOW runs through November 12, 2017, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, at 8 p.m. on Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays (no 2 p.m. performance on Saturday, October 28 and an added 2 p.m. performance on Wednesday, November 8). La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA. Tickets range from $20 to $70. For information and reservations, call 562-944-9801 or 714-994-6310 or go online.