BWW Reviews: The Arvada Center Presents a Haunting and Memorable Insight into Addiction in END OF THE RAINBOW
The Arvada Center presents the regional premiere of END OF THE RAINBOW (written by Peter Quilter) playing now through April 13th. It's December 1968 and Judy Garland - with her signature cocktail of talent, tenacity and razor-sharp wit - is poised to make a triumphant comeback... or maybe not. This bio-drama with music will leave audiences with a tragically poignant insight to the star's final days.
"They hate it when you fall down, but they love watching you get back up again."
Honestly, this was not my favorite play...at first, but this show really grew on me. I have witnessed the majesty of afflicted heroines before including Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Violet in August: Osage County and have cherished these isonic plays for years. What truly impressed me about END OF THE RAINBOW and Judy Garland's demise were the layers involved in her downward spiral and elevating this play with the absolutely stunning musical numbers. Now, please note - This is a not a musical but rather a play with music . Especially in this case - this show would not be the memorable and effective production that it is without these two components working so harmoniously together. With Tari Kelly at the helm, Judy was the definition of wicked charm and I loved the Wizard of Oz quips, her total narcissism, and her enthralling downward spiral. The aspect that took my breath away was Tari's singing that was simply uncanny and you could not tear your eyes away from her amazing performance. Sensational numbers include Just In Time, The Trolley Song, The Man that got Away, Come Rain or Come Shine, Somewhere over the Rainbow. When you peel away the layers of all things Judy, this show is actually a haunting and tragic look at addiction - the struggle with recovery, the manipulation, the highs and the lows and even lower rock bottoms. In summary - this is a tale of a professional addict. The Arvada Center took a risk with this show and because of the exceptional performances, this show paid off and was a wonderful homage to this tragic star.
This biggest compliment I can give the talented Tari Kelly is that this show would not be possible without her amazing performance of this iconic character and she was the embodiment of Judy Garland. I personally loved her additions and attention to the gestures and personal ticks that made her role so spot on. In addition to her mesmerizing acting was the exceptional musical performances and vocal styling that at times had me believing that we were witnessing the reincarnation of this screen legend. Zachary Clark was excellent was the brash fiancee, Mickey Deans. I appreciated his outward conflict on trying to take care of Judy and getting her to perform. On the flipside of the coin was tender performance of Jonas Cohen as her accompanist, Anthony. His heartfelt portrayal was truly remarkable and you really felt for his character and his outward yet dejected pouring of support and endearment for Judy.
Director Rod A. Lansberry met this challenging play head on with casting the perfect actors for these memorable roles and their interpersonal chemistry made this show the heartfelt performances that truly haunted and fascinated the audience. This show would not be complete without the sensational musical performances that elevated this show to another level thanks to the musical direction by David Nehls and musical staging by Alan Bennett. This set from the genius mind of Brian Mallgrave brought us into the lovely, yet grandeur hotel suite. What I was most impressed about was the pop out surprise element of the big band appearing from the hidden hotel wall bringing the show and amazing stage presence of JUDY! to life. The sound and lighting by designers David Thomas and Shannon McKinney respectably were thoroughly enjoyed during the musical performances with the perfect blend of singing and big band and illuminating starquality. Another noticeable and pleasing aesthetic were the costumes by Clare Henkel and hair and makeup by Diana Ben-Kiki that made Tari's uncanny resemblance of Judy shine and placed the audience into the time period.
Witness the tragic, and heartbreaking end of a legend and be moved by play, the music, and the craft. THE END OF THE RAINBOW is fascinating audiences now until April 13th at The Arvada Center. Performances are Tuesday - Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday at 1 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. The show will be ASL Interpreted for the hearing impaired on Friday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets or more information contact the box office at www.arvadacenter.org or by calling 720-898-7200. Please note: This production contains adult language and content dealing with alcoholism, drug use and sexuality.
PHOTO CREDIT: P. Switzer Photography