JANELLE LUTZ COMMANDS THE STAGE AND GIVES A TOUR DE FORCE PERFORMANCE AS JUDY GARLAND
It is London 1968 and Judy Garland is about to make her final comeback. OMG I Love That Show, has transformed their black box stage into Judy’s final apartment in London. END OF THE RAINBOW Judy’s Back! is now on the Vukasin black box stage at the Dean Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek only through April 23. Nominated for 3 Tony Awards and 4 Olivier Awards, including Best New Play. Director Jenn BeVard quotes vintage actor James Mason “(Judy) could wring tears out of a rock” The full throttle Janelle Lutz brings her award winning performance of Judy to the Bay Area. She has performed this bio-play in Dallas, and other cities creating the kind of Broadway buzz that only HAMILTON is famous for. Lutz gives a tour de force performance of this woman's final weeks, and it truly overwhelmed me.
Writer Peter Quilter’s END OF THE RAINBOW captures the final months of Garland’s life when she hopes for a comeback. The tragic, funny and powerhouse play with music gets a superb regional premiere by OMG Productions. DeVards directs an enthusiastic cast with Janelle Lutz as the brilliant vocal icon who lived for her drugs, booze and many marriages, to mostly to gay men. The impressive Lutz won standing ovations from audiences for her portrayal of Garland in “The Boy from Oz” in 2014 at the Dallas Uptown players. Many have second guessed what caused Judy Garland’s personal struggles and untimely death at 47 from an overdose of barbiturates, to being burnt out or struggling through a nervous breakdown. Battling her cocktail of mix drugs and alcohol, she struggles a heart breaking series of performances at London's “Talk of the Town” as she tries to win back her crown as the greatest talent of her generation.
The cast is compelling featuring three leading roles, Garland and her pianist Anthony Chapman played by the fully realized Clay David and her current boyfriend to be husband Mickey Deans (Clinton Williams), backed up by a sharp seven piece band under the music direction of Brian Allan Hobbs. Set designer Mark Mendelson’s cozy hotel room setting bounces into a club setting for Garland to perform her classics; Lutz opens with “Come Rain or Come Shine”. I am pleased to report this is not your pop jukebox musical. It is dark, funny and so tragic at times you want to look away from the stage. Lutz powers through “Come Rain or Come Shine” missing a beat at times but still capturing Judy’s brilliant stage presence. She stumbles through songs, but her amazing voice sounds like Ritalin with whisky. Lutz has the magic to show Judy's destructive side in every song she sings including the classic “Just In Time”.
Traveling with her is Mickey Deans a detailed, uptight yet very in love, handsome fiancé and manager. He will soon be the fifth husband even if Judy has lost track of her ex’s “I thought this was the fourth;” she remarks to her pianist, Anthony, who is valiantly loyal and dapper. He is pitch perfect in his convincing British accent. Judy is manic with Anthony and Mickey setting off both of them with her furries of fuss and trying to micromanage their star. This Hollywood icon brings more emotional baggage than her small hotel room can deal with. Lutz creates Judy’s body language perfect, pill popping rage is scary real and she is a vibrant embodiment of Garland. The sold out opening night audience was in ovation mode for the hits like “The Trolley Song” yet I could hear the mostly baby boomer audience gasp when Lutz was laid flat on her back or being wrestled to the ground by Micky and Anthony. Both her current men enable her as most had done her entire life, but the pure breakdown on stage at times is hard to watch, the acting so splendid, yet disturbing that you want her to take that drink so we can move on with the story. (below pics of Judy at the "Talk of the Town")
Sound designer Lyle Barrere has created an excellent montage of radio and BBC clips featuring the news of the times about Garland. Barrere had to make sure the audio on his falling star was solid as she crawled and had her breakdown. Artistic Director Ryan Cowles’ authentic props, including Judy’s important hotel room bar, dial British phones that are tossed around the room, and wonderful period couch that made this a complete classy Ritz Hotel. Bethany Deals’ costumes for 1968 vintage Judy, created a stunningly exquisite “Garland look” with her skirts, scarfs and signature black cocktail gown. Mendelson’s vintage set was fluid as the Ritz swank suite easily transformed to the famed “Talk of the Town” nightclub where she’ sang the roof off with songs like “I Belong To London”.
Always by her side on and off stage her devoted pianist, Anthony, tragically looks on as his love deconstructs on stage as he tries to keep her on book. David shows a wonderful bond with Lutz, especially in a scene where he needs to redo Garland’s make up after one of her many tantrums. The tears roll and his love for his falling star is incredibly touching. Clinton Williams as Mickey is bold and sacred of his new fiancee, as he tries to protect her from herself. Both David and Williams are exceptional with Lutz, and Ryan Meulpolder who plays both the BBC Host and other male characters is a standout.
Director BeVard gives Garland fans and audience a Judy that is authentic with Lutz on stage one final time broken, but elegant to sing the banner song "Over The Rainbow". After the broadcast of her death in her room at the Ritz it is a reminder that Judy Garland may have taken her final bow, but she will always live on. Janelle Lutz’s performance is remarkable in END OF THE RAINBOW, she nails the rich voice of Garland's signature sound and dialect. Lutz is a vibrant singer as she lets loose in a Bio that is exciting, bitter, flailing, ecstatic and all Judy Garland. THIS IS A MUST SEE. It has to close April 25th.
OMG, I Love That Show!” Productions Presents
End of the Rainbow
Written by Peter Quilter, Directed by Jenn BeVard
Music Director Brian Allan Hobbs
Must close April 23rd
Lesher Center for the Arts
1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, CA
Tickets at www.omgilovethatshow.com
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/events/1794177134236847/
Photo Credit: Janelle Lutz as Judy Garland Nick Korkos Photography
The cast features: Janelle Lutz as Judy Garland with Clay David,
Clinton Williams and Ryan Meulpolder.
Judy in 1969 at Talk of Town
Jamelle sings SMILE