While Judy Garland was not my first love at the movies (that distinction goes to Ms. Julie Andrews), she certainly figured prominently in my love of movies and music. The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me in St. Louis were early favourites – then A Star Is Born. From “Over the Rainbow” to “The Man That Got Away.” And I have “Judy at Carnegie Hall” in my CD collection.
It was a fabulous pleasure to be at the opening night of The Judy Monologues at the Annex Theatre tonight, a show conceived and directed – and also featuring – Darren Stewart-Jones, and showcasing a fine ensemble of Judy-lovin’ talent: Philip Cairns, Michael Hughes and remarkable Judy look-alike Kimberly Roberts.
“Look-alike” isn’t even sufficient enough to describe Ms. Roberts’ presence as Judy Garland. Her bone structure cries Judy, but so too do her movements and the way she carries herself in the part. And the eyes. Those incredible, expressive eyes. Moments of frustration, pensiveness and melancholy – and pre-show spark – all present throughout her performance.
The dialogue is an interpretation of the recently released recordings Judy made in the mid-60s at the urging of agent Irving “Swifty” Lazar. The male actors shine in both the words and presentation, glittering with sequins-covered costumes in this multi-media tribute to an incredible talent gone too soon. In between the monologues, sound recordings emerge through the speakers and film clips of Judy flicker on the wall upstage centre. And what is especially remarkable is that the male actors speak in the Judy first person, and this comes so naturally – and in such a matter of fact, poignant and humourous way – that the audience can easily forget that we’re hearing male voices.
And I don’t want to say much more than that as there’s an interesting element to the dialogue and the staging that you really need to see and hear for yourself. I will say that Judy Garland is interpreted in a very loving and respectful manner.
The Judy Monologues is a fabulous show and it was a delight to experience its first night of this run at Toronto Fringe. Continuing at the Annex Theatre until July 15. For details and scheduling, visit the Fringe site: www.fringetoronto.com