The industry is overflowing with people who possess star quality, but there are still certain actors/actresses, idolised the globe over, whose names command such attention and respect from theatre fans. The likes of Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Julie Andrews have all achieved a legendary status within the world of showbiz – one which will continue long after they have passed on, as it has done for another Queen of the Stage: Judy Garland.
The late actress is undoubtedly most well-known for her role as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 MGM movie musical, The Wizard of Oz, filmed when she was just 16 years old. She went on to gain further acclaim for her musical roles, starring in such subsequent films as Babes in Arms, Meet Me in St Louis and A Star is Born. She also made numerous television appearances and performed in concert on tour. Her career spanned 40 years, but was overshadowed at times by a turbulent personal life that included financial problems, five marriages, and her well-publicised struggles with drugs and alcohol, which led to her early death in 1969 following an accidental overdose.
The legacy of the award-winning American actress and singer endures more than 40 years after her untimely death. She remains an important figure in showbiz, especially amongst musical theatre fans and has been portrayed by others through various mediums, including TV and theatre. She features as a character in the 1998 musical, The Boy From Oz, as well as The Property Known as Garland, and the one-act play, The Judy Monologues, is a production based on her own voice recordings. One of the most well-known Garland shows is Peter Quilter’s musical, End of the Rainbow, which focuses on the final months of her life. Tracie Bennett gave a critically-acclaimed performance as Judy Garland in the West End production.
Now, another Judy Garland show has just been announced. Judy – The Life and Music of a Hollywood Legend will make its UK première in May in an all-new tour that sees it play in theatres all around the country. This show is different from others though, in the respect that it is being billed as the only one in the world authorised by the Judy Garland estate and also stars her daughter, Lorna Luft. Luft is part of ‘showbiz royalty’, as the daughter of Garland, half-sister of Liza Minelli, and a highly successful film, TV and stage actress in her own right. She appeared on stage with her mother many times as a young girl, and went on to star in such stage productions as White Christmas, Follies, Guys and Dolls and Babes in Arms in her adult career, even performing in a UK production of The Wizard of Oz at The Lowry Centre in Manchester – as the Wicked Witch of the West.
Judy Garland: The Life and Music of a Hollywood Legend is a new musical show that features never seen before film clips and interviews, together with performances of classic hit songs from some of her most popular films, including ‘I Got Rhythm’, ‘The Trolley Song’, ‘The Man That Got Away’, ‘Get Happy’, ‘Zing! Went the Strings of my Heart’, and of course, ‘Over the Rainbow’, the song that is most synonymous with Judy Garland. Luft will star alongside leading West End performers, Louise Dearman (Wicked, Evita, Cats, Guys and Dolls), Rachel Stanley (Anything Goes, White Christmas, Crazy For You, Chicago), Ben Richards (Rock of Ages, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Guys and Dolls, Saturday Night Fever) and more, as well as Judy’s dancers – The Boyfriends, named after her original dancers of the same name. The production is directed by Christopher Manoe and also includes acclaimed choreographer and theatre director, Arlene Philips, as Creative Director.
The UK tour launches on 8th May 2015, when the show opens at the Edinburgh Playhouse. It will go on to play venues all around the UK, visiting such places as York, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Cornwall, Cardiff, Sheffield, Brighton and Oxford. The last tour date advertised is at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking, where it runs from 28th July to 1st August 2015.
Many have stepped into Judy Garland’s ruby red slippers over the years, but none have quite filled them as she did. Perhaps by keeping it in the family, her daughter will be able to do justice to the legacy of one of musical theatre’s greats.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 3rd March 2015