BWW Reviews: The Rep's 'End of the Rainbow' Searches for Love
"I miss being loved," the legendary Judy Garland sighs in The Milwaukee Rep's first Quadracci Powerhouse production of the year, End of the Rainbow. Peter Quilter's "play with music" highlights the star's last few weeks of her extraordinary successful yet troubled life and the title refers to the song that often defined Garland. The "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the theme from her iconic film The Wizard of Oz that catapulted the young actress into the spotlight.
In the 1939 movie, the classic character Dorothy clicks the heels of her red slippers and returns to Kansas, her home. In End of the Rainbow, Garland has been unable to kick her various addictions and returns to the Talk of the Town London Nightclub in 1968 for another comeback with her 5th husband to be Mickey Deans, also working as her manager.
Scenic Designer Dan Conway gives Milwaukee a lavish, gilt trimmed Ritz Carlton Hotel suite fitted with chandeliers, a settee and chaise. The blue and gold themed room appear to symbolize royalty, which suited Garland's award-winning career. During her short life, Garland was admired and idolized by her public, a continuing factor even in 2014, and the stage seamlessly rotates into The Talk of the Town, where Garland's mesmerizing music soars under Director Mark Clements.
The fact appears at this stage in her life, Garland apparently forgot to love who she was and who she had become. Studios plied her with drugs at an early age to monitor her weight and fight the stresses of working so much in multiple memorable films. Traumatized by the fear of her success, and that she was rarely good enough, Garland says on stage, "It's a terrible thing to know what you're capable of and then not get there."
Garland achieved more than anyone could ever hope for, and gave so much of herself, she seemed to collapse under the constant pressure, or be so afraid her talent might vanish and leave her lonely. Multi-award-winning actress Hollis Resnik brings Garland to the Quadracci Powerhouse stage, the first time the character played by an American, and almost like Garland, knows what she is capable of, only misses by millimeters.
Garland's biting wit shines throughout Resnik's portrayal, and musically when singing Garland's final six-week comeback performances, the actress radiates on stage with Garland's music. This includes her renowned songs, "The Man that Got Away", "The Trolley Song" made famous from Meet Me In St. Louis, and "Come Rain or Come Shine," which powerfully moved the Milwaukee audience.
Nicholas Harazin as the younger Mickey tries desperately to curb Garland, keep her a good girl, off drugs and liquor, which she constantly pleads for. Does Deans truly love her? Or does her gay piano player Anthony love her more, promise Garland the unconditional love she craves? The role of Anthony is performed by debuting actor Thomas J. Cox. Anthony's love appears more devoted, and well developed, on stage than Dean's.
Resnik's compelling and striking portrait allows insight into Garland's life (and perhaps those people who achieve public success at a high price), without a personal love to sustain the pressures of fame. Everyone misses being loved. Without the advantage of an unconditional love that lasts over a lifetime, or loving oneself exactly for who one is, no degree of public adulation or applause replaces the human need for this comfort, the love Quilter's final picture of Garland searches for and remains lost in her life. Resnik and Milwaukee's End of the Rainbow portrays this unfortunate reality with conviction, although the audience once again can love the Judy Garland that won great fame except with herself. And tragically in the end, Garland was the only person that mattered.
The Milwaukee Rep presents End of the Rainbow on the Quadracci Powerhouse Stage at the Patty and Jay Baker Theatre Complex through February 9. For further information, or tickets, please call: 414.224.9490 or www.milwaukeerep.com