It’s tough to walk into a theatre for a show like End of The Rainbow without at least some preconceived notion of what you’re about to see. We know the story.  We know how it ends.  And yet we want to see and hear Judy Garland one more time – no matter how sad or painful a memory it may be.  Make no mistake about it, the current production at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Mile Theatre is tough to watch, but for all the right reasons.  It’s a well done show, a sad but proper homage to the legend that was Judy Garland.

(Kathy St. George)

End of the Rainbowis set at the end of 1968 amid yet another of Garland’s comeback attempts that have been beset by her drug and alcohol fueled addictions. An elegant suite at a posh London hotel rotates with The Talk of the Town nightclub, where Garland is set to tune it up for five weeks before staging what is to be her much ballyhooed, triumphant return.Tim Bennett’s two-set stage is a perfect way to move between Peter Quilter’s script and Garland’s legendary musical performances. 

The small cast is led by Kathy St. George (Garland), who is flat out spectacular!  What a challenge –look, act, sing and perform like an out-of-control icon grasping for every straw,drug and drink to stay on top of her game.  What a rare treat – she captured the spirit on stage that was Judy on stage.  Save for that signature lower, raspiness that Garland had in her voice and an almost too perfect musical presentation at times, she made us believe.  What a stellar performance. 

(Colin McPhillamy, Kathy St. George)

Offsetting her insecurities and petulance was Colin McPhillamy (Anthony) who plays Garland’s accompanist. He is the author’s symbol of all the gay men who were, and are, at the core of Garland fandom.  A first-rate performance that was passionate, gut wrenching and wonderfully soulful.   Michael Laurino (Mickey), plays Garland’s manager/fiancé/5th husband.  A wolf in sheep’s clothing who ultimately shows his true colors and insincerity as just another “user” of the legend that was Garland.   Terry M. Cain (BBC interviewer/hotel porter/stage manager) rounds out the cast filling three roles.

Actors’ Playhouse artistic director David Arisco has given us another crisp, tight show that brings out the extreme ups and downs of one of the best performers ever.  He and St. George developed an approach that brought out the soaring highs and devastating lows that make Garland seem as if she was indeed life imitating art – and vice versa - at almost every frenetic turn.  Ellis Tillman’s costumes were spot on and David Nagy’s 6-piece band that backed St. George in some of Garland’s most memorable songs was excellent. Too bad this play-with-music only “highlighted” some of those songs, instead of giving them a full turn.  Nothing wrong with that in context, I just wanted to hear more of that great music.

(Kathy St George, Michael Laurino)

This show is worth seeing for a lot of different reasons, but the foremost one is to see Ms. St. George command the stage, the role, the memory and the sad tale that is this slice of Judy Garland’s life.  It’s not often you get to see someone “leave it all out there”, but she does.   In a word – wow! 

End of the Rainbow runs through February 9th at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. 
Tickets at the box office: 305-444-9293 or www.actorsplayhouse.org.