Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Stage

Review: Freefall's 'End of the Rainbow' delivers a sensational, bittersweet look at Judy Garland

ST. PETERSBURG — The idea of a play about Judy Garland toward the end of her life comes with at least two roadblocks.

Thirty years after The Wizard of Oz, the troubles faced by the former teen star — turbulent relationships, multiple suicide attempts, booze and pills — were all well known. This can't be about irony or potential gone to waste. The world has long been there and done that.

What else is new?

The musical challenge is even more daunting. A biopic of any kind has to include music. Who will play Garland?

The answer to all of these questions is don't worry about it. End of the Rainbow at Freefall Theatre has got you covered. This production of Peter Quilter's 2005 musical drama has it all. Directed by producing artistic director Eric Davis, this show delivers the acid contrasts you might expect between an image defined by dreaminess and the harshest realities, with a tragedy with more than a touch of comedy.

In a London hotel suite in December 1968, Garland and the two men who don't like each other are looking at a six-week run, the latest in a series of comebacks. Both Anthony, her pianist, and fiance Mickey want to protect her from herself, but for different reasons and in decidedly contrasting ways. The star is a tough case, with decades of practice in manipulating doctors and pharmacists for barbiturates and amphetamines, even secreting the pills in the furniture or the hems of dresses.

"I've been stepping around guys like you for years," she says.

Most importantly, this show supplies Melissa Minyard, whose performance of Garland breaks the mold. Before she sings, there's a question on the minds of audience members, whether they know it's there or not.

Can she do this?

Early on, she rehearses I Can't Give You Anything But Love with her pianist (Michael Ursua, who, besides giving an empathetic and convincing performance as Anthony and conducting a six-piece band just offstage, is an excellent pianist). From her first notes, the thought changes to, "Well, that's settled."

The show deftly switches settings from the suite to her sold out performance halls, with occasional video of London streets projected on a wall to remind us where we are and when. Minyard goes on to belt out superb renditions of favorites in the vein of You Made Me Love You, Come Rain or Come Shine, When You're Smiling and many more.

Robert Teasdale plays the fiance, Mickey Deans, balancing the outward appearance of a smooth nightclub manager and backstage fixer with controlling boyfriend in what appears to be a loveless union from the start. He's not always sympathetic and even comes off as shallow and basically mean, just how the part is written. This is a limited man who is vastly overmatched by his partner and the circumstances, and Teasdale pulls that off.

Daniel Schwab plays multiple ancillary roles in the cast of four, memorably as the reserved host of a disastrous BBC interview. Together the men provide reliable, sure handed support for Garland. The musical background of Davis, a former arts magnet school music teacher, Ursua and Minyard take this play with music beyond the level of what would be expected even from a full-blown musical.

A hint of just how good it is: Over the Rainbow is in there and it's lovely, but that song is not the high point of the show. By the time it comes along, everything has been said and done. There is nothing left to do but remember a brilliant artist, gone too soon.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

By JULIE GARISTOTimes CorrespondentTAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre’s Gnit strikes gold for theatergoers who appreciate deadpan wit, clever wordplay and incisive commentary on the human condition.First produced in 2013, the retread of a Scandinavian c...
Published: 01/16/18
A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

MIAMI — The idea seemed outlandish, maybe even impossible at the time: a one-man play about Miami’s infamous Cocaine Cowboys of the 1980s. Some 15 years ago, the Miami-raised Billy Corben was deep into research for what would become Coca...
Published: 01/15/18
Updated: 01/16/18

Review: Show Palace’s Pippin daring and dangerous

HUDSON —If you saw the musical Pippin when it first hit Broadway in 1972, or a high school drama club version, or even a touring company rendition a decade ago, it’s not exactly the Pippin you’ll see if you’re wise enough to go see the spectacular mo...
Published: 01/15/18
With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

An actor famous for playing a radio station manager will star this week in the world premiere of a radio play.Mike Hammer: Encore for Murder brings Gary Sandy, who played Andy Travis on WKRP in Cincinnati, to Ruth Eckerd Hall. And the star power was ...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/13/18
Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

If you’re already singing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack alone, why not meet like-minded folks and do it together?A Hamilton singalong goes down tonight at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library in Tampa. Fans will gather to sing the entire — y...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18
Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

ST. PETERSBURGThe dancers kept moving, spinning, pausing for arabesques or stretches. Over most of a December afternoon at the Mirror Lake Studios, they rarely stopped, whether rehearsing specific routines or not.Choreographer Lauren Ree Slone also m...
Published: 01/11/18
Canadian cops hunt former Opera Tampa maestro Daniel Lipton in connection with sexual assault

Canadian cops hunt former Opera Tampa maestro Daniel Lipton in connection with sexual assault

Daniel Lipton, Opera Tampa’s most recent artistic director, is being sought by Canadian authorities in connection with a sexual assault.The alleged assault took place in the late 1980s, a woman the Times is not naming told the Hamilton Police Service...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18
Master chorale and visiting artistic director Doreen Rao part ways

Master chorale and visiting artistic director Doreen Rao part ways

TAMPA — The Master Chorale of Tampa Bay has ended its relationship with visiting artistic director Doreen Rao. The announcement on Tuesday continues an ongoing uncertainty about leadership for the chorale, which has not had a permanent artistic direc...
Published: 01/09/18
Updated: 01/10/18
Show Palace features Pippin

Show Palace features Pippin

HUDSON — The Show Palace Dinner Theatre opens 2018 with a local production of the 1972 Broadway musical, Pippin, which runs evenings and matinees Jan. 13 through Feb. 18. The ensemble performance features an acrobatic troupe led by a charismatic "Lea...
Published: 01/09/18
Jahja Ling and his pianist wife, Jessie Chang, delight with Sibelius and Beethoven

Jahja Ling and his pianist wife, Jessie Chang, delight with Sibelius and Beethoven

TAMPA — With a genial wave and a smile, the Florida Orchestra’s second music director greeted a Tampa Bay audience, the kind he used to see over 14 seasons. By the time Jahja Ling left the area in 2002, the orchestra had more than found its footing. ...
Published: 01/04/18
Updated: 01/06/18