Before Thursday night, I had never heard of Judy Garland, but I am glad I had the opportunity to learn about her through an “autobiographical” performance. Yes, I am talking about the original MGM Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz!
If you do know who she is, I can only ask: wouldn’t you like to see her …live?!
Even with my reduced knowledge of Judy’s life, I recognized most of the songs performed in the play. The music selection was enjoyable, and Christopher Peterson has an amazing voice that captivated and impressed the audience. But before I get ahead of myself I should tell you more about what you will learn from Judy Garland.
Have you ever had one of those days in which you feel like you are the only one doing your job? Have you felt like you have too many responsibilities? Have you felt undervalued, overworked, and stressed?
Judy Garland has.
And she will tell you all about it, swears and all, just as she felt it. After all, Judy must have been having a bad day when on June 22, 1964, she overdosed on barbiturates. This is the moment the play starts; Judy is in a coma, and you shall soon realize that what you are seeing on stage is only in her head. Judy (Christopher Peterson) will be guiding you through her life as she sings the tunes that represent different stages of her career, aided by a quiet piano man (Nicholas Samoil),. But above all, she will provide you with an interesting viewpoint on the life of an adult that is, according to others’ definition, a success. But what is success after all?
Among the performed songs, there was the all-time classic (and many times covered) song “Over the Rainbow,” and just as with every song in the play, I was able to discover something new about it. I could sense Judy’s pain and sorrow in the lyrics and voice, and I realized that I will never hear these songs the same way again. With his performance of Judy, Christopher Peterson gave each song new significance—these are not just songs, they are somebody’s songs; they are Judy Garland’s songs.
In terms of the production, I can say that the lighting was not the best. I was constantly distracted by the lights hanging from the roof and on the side of the stage, taking me away from the experience to concentrate on where the light was coming from. The costumes, however, were as flattered by the lighting as they were glamorous and sparkly (also, I may add, designed by Christopher Peterson). And I was not particularly impressed by the back screen showing pictures of Judy and the men in her life, later changing to more neutral and abstract images. It was helpful to connect the stage Judy with the real Judy, but I believe it could have been done more effectively with the use of film, similar to flashback memories, or simply by using more pictures (there were only about 5 shown of her throughout the show).
There was a sound failure at the beginning, with Peterson’s microphone not working. Being opening night, it is expected to run into a problem or two, and I must say I was impressed that Peterson never left character, and almost convinced me that the microphone failing was just another part of the scene—had I not know that Judy was in a coma and alone, I may have believed so.
And after that small glitch, the show went on…
In a way, that is what this play’s main message was for me. As Judy realized where she was, and she asked for a second chance, I noticed a change in her attitude and anger about her work, the things she had been through, and the sorrows in her life. She stood up, and with the port of a true Diva, she went on stage once again…
And then Edmonton got to see Judy Garland live!
This original production by Darrin Hagen and Christopher Peterson combines what I have heard from good authority are audiences’ biggest theatre-peeves. One-person plays and musicals are often disparaged, but if the play and production is good then I mind neither. This play combines them so successfully that I barely noticed it.Either way I can say with confidence that even if you are not like me, you will STILL love this play.
Typhoon Judy plays at the Roxy until October 28th. For ticket information visit Yeglive.ca