Set in December 1968, "End of the Rainbow" depicts diva Judy Garland falling deeper into drink and drugs as she simultaneously tries to revamp her career. The Guthrie Theater production features UK actress Tracie Bennett, who performed the role in London to rave reviews. Twin Cities critics, however, have not been as impressed overall. Many seem to want not just a shell of a character at the end of her career, but a window in to the vulnerable Minnesota girl that charmed the world. But at least one critic says to look for that is "a fool's errand."
Scroll down to read excerpts of reviews, or click on the links to read them in their entirety.
Tracie Bennett in the role of Judy Garland in the Guthrie Theater's production of "End of the Rainbow," by Peter Quilter
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Shouting, crying, kicking and screaming with a quavering voice that would make Katharine Hepburn sue for royalties, Bennett devours the London hotel room in which Peter Quilter's play is set.
It is both an exhausting and a bravura feat of physical stamina by an actor who understands that this play reveals not much more than a slim portrait of addiction -- the disease's manifestations evident in Garland's manipulative bullying and helpless vulnerability.
It's easy to wish Garland's life were as clean-cut and beautiful as she appeared to be in her movies. But as End of the Rainbow shows, nothing is that simple--particularly when fame is involved. Bennett expertly portrays what it meant for Garland to be a star in this dynamic, intense, and emotional production, giving what could easily be the best performance ever to have graced the Guthrie's McGuire Proscenium stage. By the time she takes her final bow, you wonder what life could have been like for Garland had she been able to finally find her way over the rainbow.
Michael Cumpsty as Anthony and Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland in the Guthrie Theater's production of End of the Rainbow, by Peter Quilter
Photo by Carol Rosegg
...if you're looking for insight into what made Garland an important figure or exceptional talent, little comes from "End of the Rainbow." While a few of the musical numbers give you a sense of her onstage charisma, it's more an increasingly dark tale of one woman's disintegration.
While Bennett does an admirable job of employing little details from the late-model Garland's conversational style and mannerisms, her hardened portrayal never finds the vulnerable girl from Grand Rapids, Minn., who still surfaced in her final TV appearances.
Bennett has honed the character through the play's West End incarnation, and she arrives at the Guthrie as an absolute force of nature. Quilter's script does give her rare moments of vulnerability, but they tend to distract as much as enlighten. I get the sense that by this time in her life the shell is all that is left of Garland, and searching for what's left inside is just a fool's errand. Bennett tries gamely, but her performance is at its best when it brings out Garland's outsized personality and presence.
Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland in "End of the Rainbow" at the Guthrie Theater
Photo by Robert Day
Many of the songs are fragmented, Ritalin fueled, incomplete. This makes the performance section of End Of The Rainbow rather short. This is disappointing, for I found many of the hotel suite scenes repetitive and short on narrative momentum. Garland and Dean scream at each other endlessly. Deans goes from drug/booze teetotaler to enabler ("Take a few of these. They'll fix you up.") with no believable explanation.
Did you see "End of the Rainbow?" If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.
I thought it was a show and heart-stopper, and blogged about how it complemented "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in a post titled "Sex, Drugs, Booze and Death at the Guthrie": http://www.cakein15.com/2012/02/10/sex-drugs-booze-and-death-at-the-guthrie/
Not sure if it was the writing, hammering swear words or Bennet's contrived and disgusting piss on stage dog impression. I can't imagine that Judy Garland's family isn't tempted to sue for defamation of character. There must be more to Garland than this shallow and unlikable performance gives. So predictable. Watching drug addicts on the street is more entertaining and it's free!!
Tracie Bennett portrayed Judy Garland's life and image as we know it. Judy Garland was the voice and a star in her day. It was an outstanding performance and I would see it again.
I do have to agree that there should have been more insight into Judys early life, but this is only a 2 and a half hour play, how much can you put in, that being said, I thought it was still insightfull and as a piece of theatre terrific, and as for the lead, she was STUPENDOUS AND THRILLING. I hope she wins every away offered to here, the performance of the season or any season. As long as critics embrace shows like Book of Mormon, there is no hope for creative writing now. So be it, broadway is just what it used to be shows and critics. So sad. GO SEE T HIS SHOW SUPPORT IT YOU WONT BE DISAPPOINTED!!!