Legit Review: ‘End of the Rainbow’

Legit Review: 'End of the Rainbow'

In Pasadena Playhouse’s current “One Night With Janis Joplin,” at least Mary Bridget Davies tries to replicate the late rocker when she was in her prime — and comes close. Tracie Bennett in Peter Quilter’s “End of the Rainbow” recalls Judy Garland when the voice is all but gone. And the play surrounding the many Garland standards is of even less interest. That’s entertainment?

There can be a melancholic pleasure to be derived from listening to great singers perform past their prime. Shirley Bassey and Barbra Streisand on the recent Oscar telecast are good examples. Their powers are diminished but there’s still considerable greatness on display there. Bennett, on the other hand, has only a few decent notes at what would have been the bottom of Garland’s range. When she misses or fudges the many other notes, we’re supposed to think that she’s mimicking a vocally distressed Garland at the end of her career. But Bennett doesn’t have those many other notes! It’s simply a barely adequate but very determined singer imitating vocal weakness.

Those moments on stage with Bennett singing have their perverse charm. It’s amazing how many Garland poses she can pack into two minutes of singing. And then repeat all those poses in the next number and the next.

When Bennett isn’t singing, the Garland character is back in her London hotel suite trying to put together her final concerts, in 1968. The Garland poses are now replaced with dozens of Garland tics and twitches culled and copied from her movies and TV appearances. As three-note as Bennett is as a singer, you’ll want her back on stage performing rather than berating and dishing with her submissive gay pianist Anthony (Michael Cumpsty) and her manager-fiance-jerk Mickey Deans (Erik Heger) in that increasingly claustrophobic hotel room. Have two duller foils to a star ever been written for the stage? Garland needs a George Cukor or a Louis B. Mayer to spar with. Quilter’s two male characters don’t have the stature or the wit or even the volume; Bennett’s Garland simply steamrolls over them with all those tics and twitches, taking more drugs and missing more performances.

A tragedy took place in the life of Garland, but long before this hotel-concert episode, which is simply pathetic. Back in 1969, Vincent Canby in the New York Times noted that the shock of Garland’s death that year was that she wasn’t already dead.

Deans ultimately uses any means to get Garland on stage. Quilter somehow sees this as a bad thing, and makes Anthony his mouthpiece, begging that the concerts be canceled because Judy’s all burnt out. If only Quilter had taken his own advice. Of course, getting her up on stage is the show’s only suspense. It’s the only reason to watch this sad spectacle.

Then again, as one wag put it leaving the Ahmanson, “Bennett’s good, but she’s no Jim Bailey.”

(Ahmanson Theater, Los Angeles; 2,024 seats; $110 top)

A Center Theater Group presentation of a play with music in two acts by Peter Quilter. Directed by Terry Johnson. Sets and costumes, William Dudley; lighting, Christopher Akerlind; sound, Gareth Owen; orchestrations, Chris Egan; musical arrangements, Gareth Valentine; music direction, Jeffrey Saver; music coordinator, Seymour Red Press. Opened and reviewed March 20, 2013. Running time: 2 HOURS, 30 MIN.

With: Tracie Bennett, Michael Cumpsty, Erik Heger, Miles Anderson

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  1. Stevens says:

    Sorry but I completely agree with the critic. This is the first time I have ever left a show at intermission. Her voice is gone (I couldnt even understand the words she was singing half the time) and she kept hitting the same one note in every song like that was a big accomplishment. The 2 men characters were so one dimensional and Judy was over acted and annoying. We couldn’t decide what was worse, the songs or the scenes in between.

  2. Jack says:

    What a completely smug and useless review. As one comment put it, did we see the same play? This guy’s an idiot.

  3. Kelly Mallen says:

    Whoever wrote this review is an absolute moron. Did we see the same play?? I’ve seen tons of plays and this was one of the best. Check out the yelp reviews for the Broadway production and go with those. Thankfully I didn’t read this lame review before I went.

  4. Shanteram says:

    That’s an attack not a review

  5. Shotunes says:

    I totally disagree with Mr. Hofler. You don’t have to be Judy fan to appriciate a once in a lifetime performance. Ms. Bennett desrves all the kudos tossed her way. As for the naysayers which Variety has in plenty. Oh well go to the Pasadena Playhouse maybe you’ll enjoy Janis more.

  6. Rock Hall says:

    I also agree with the critic. Her voice is gone, and the constant flailing about trying to move on stage like Judy is over-acted and annoying. How this performance ever made it to the London and New York stage is baffling. Don’t waste you money seeing this hot mess.

  7. Sorry but I also agree with the critic she is NOTHING like Judy. I was skeptical after seeing the overly hyped commercial and you only have to go onto Youtube to see the difference. ALL of my party hated it and they are gay men who worship her. Thats why Judys family and real fans dont bother….

  8. Janet Campbell says:

    Sorry but I agree with the cr

  9. Mary Smith says:

    what an Utterly Rubbish Review!…..Having seen MS Garland perform in London in 68/69 Miss Bennett s portral of JG at that time is spot on an amazing performer and show :)x

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