Judy! Judy! Judy! Kimberly Roberts’ powerhouse performance in The Get Happy Hour with Judy

Get Happy HourThe late actress/entertainer Judy Garland is beloved on an international scale, and especially so among the LGBT community. And no one does Judy Garland quite like Kimberly Roberts.

I first saw Roberts appear as Garland in the The Judy Monologues at Toronto Fringe – and was struck by how much Roberts was able to convey of Garland throughout a completely silent performance.

I had the great pleasure of seeing Roberts perform in The Get Happy Hour with Judy, in the second of two World Pride 2014 Toronto opening night shows at Revival Bar last night, and it was the first time I’d heard her speak onstage.

Written by Roberts and Sephera Giron, and directed by Sarah Strange, The Get Happy Hour with Judy is part multi-media theatre/part cabaret/part TV show. Roberts plays both a Garland impersonator named Kimberly Williams and Garland herself in this largely one-woman show. Jamie Johnson plays the affable Bartender and accompanist, and Stuart Park guests as the Drunk and the Announcer. The action shifts from Williams chatting with the bartender about Garland and her cancelled TV show, and the two share an appreciation of her work even as they ponder the tabloid reports of self-destructive behaviour. Williams chooses to see the positive side of Garland, though, and imagines how successful her TV show would have been if it had been set up as a happy hour, with people talking, drinking, performing and enjoying. Complete with vintage black and white TV commercials, and a slide show of Garland family photos.

This is where Roberts really gets cooking. From there, the show launches into the TV program that never was, imagined by an actress sitting in a bar, chatting with a bartender over a martini: The Get Happy Show with Judy. Garland tells us about her early days in the business and shares stories about family, highlighted by the song choices (which Roberts expertly lip-syncs), including some rarely heard gems that will thrill Garland fans.

It’s more than the fact that Roberts is a remarkable look-alike. Every expression, from the mouth to the eyes, every gesture is nuanced and precise. The warmth and vulnerability behind the powerful voice and stage presence is palpable. And that’s why people love Judy Garland. Roberts doesn’t play Judy Garland – she channels Judy Garland.

You have two more chances to catch The Get Happy Hour with Judy during its Pride run: tonight (Wed, June 25) at 7:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. You can also follow and like The Get Happy Hour with Judy on Facebook.

If you’re heading over to Revival Bar, you might also consider getting there early and taking in JJ Marie Gufreda’s Left Hander in London: The Earthquake, based on Gufreda’s book about her transition from a “Joe to a Jane,” which is touring with The Get Happy Hour with Judy and has performances at 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on June 25. I caught the end of the show last night – and it promises to be a funny and poignant experience.

p.s. – Love how The Get Happy Hour with Judy gang includes their favourite Judy Garland song in their bios. Mine is “The Man That Got Away.” What’s yours?

 

 

 

 

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World Pride 2014 Toronto event teaser: The Get Happy Hour with Judy

Get Happy PicHere’s another World Pride 2014 Toronto event I’m really looking forward to: The Get Happy Hour with Judy, directed by Sarah Strange and featuring remarkable Judy Garland look-alike Kimberly Roberts – running June 24 – 25 at Revival Bar at 7:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m.

Toronto Fringe fans may remember Roberts performing as Ms. Garland in The Judy Monologues at Toronto Fringe 2012.

Kimberly Roberts is a truly incredible performer. She’s not so much impersonating Judy Garland as channeling her. Need proof? Check out this clip of her performing:

Come have a martini and spend the evening with Judy as she tells us about the TV show she’d preferred doing.

In the meantime, you can go follow and like The Get Happy Hour with Judy on Facebook.

 

 

The Judy Monologues – simply fabulous!

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