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End of the Rainbow

Belasco Theatre , Midtown West Saturday March 24 2012 20:00
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

End of the Rainbow is a wreath for Judy Garland—not a laurel wreath for her power, but a floral one for her funeral. And its sympathy for the great singer is largely of the bad-faith tabloid kind, whose purported “concern” for celebrities is a tool to justify articles and photographs that paint them as grotesques. The Garland of Peter Quilter’s drama, directed by Terry Johnson, is accordingly the wretched one of the very final years. Here, for our terror and pity and amusement, is Garland agonistes: aging, broke, unlucky in love, ravaged by pills, losing control, totally over the whole rainbow thing and determined to drink herself under the table.

The petite, husky-voiced Tracie Bennett was praised lavishly as Garland when End of the Rainbow opened on the West End in 2010, and it’s easy to see why: She straggles and rallies through a monumentally showy role, full of radical shifts of attitude as well as sequences that replicate the singer’s 1968 run at London’s Talk of the Town nightclub. Bennett is highly impressive, but she can’t match Garland vocally (who could?), and is more technically admirable than profoundly affecting; this is the kind of performance that gets lauded for its stamina. And Quilter puts her at the center of a mawkish British spin on Garland, in which a sweet, gay Scottish pianist (the fine Cumpsty) imagines weaning the diva from her vulgar, gigolo-ish American fiancé (Pelphrey) and squiring her off to a cozy life in Brighton. That Bennett performs this show eight times a week is a marvel indeed; seeing it just once wore me out.—Adam Feldman



Venue name: Belasco Theatre
Address: 111 W 44th St
New York
Cross street: between Broadway and Sixth Ave
Transport: Subway: N, Q, R, 42nd St S, 1, 2, 3, 7 to 42nd St–Times Sq; B, D, F, M to 47–50th Sts–Rockefeller Ctr
Price: $31.50–$126.50, premium $199.50