Yesterday, I was lucky enough to attend the matinee of ‘Judy: The Songbook Of Judy Garland’ at The New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham. The touring show stars Lorna Luft (Judy’s youngest daughter), Ray Quinn, Louise Dearman, Rachel Stanley, Darren Bennett and Georgina Hagen, along with ‘The Boyfriends’: a group of all male backing dancers.
The cast perform some of Judy’s most cherished numbers such as: ‘A Couple Of Swells’, ‘The Trolley Song’, ‘For Me And My Gal’ and ‘Get Happy’ in front of a striking backdrop of red and black. Judy herself makes a video appearance or two.
One particularly moving moment is seeing Judy sing ‘Lorna’ to an 11 year old Lorna Luft on ‘The Judy Garland Show’ which ran on CBS from 1963-64. Judy had ‘Lorna’ specially commissioned for her daughter (using the theme from her show and lyrics by Johnny Mercer), after not being able to find a ‘name song’ to sing like she had for her other children.
Speaking of Lorna, the lady is on top form. She could have easily performed without a microphone. What a set of pipes! Her rendition of the iconic Judy Garland/Barbra Streisand ‘Get Happy’/’Happy Days Are Here Again’/’Hooray For Love’ Medley’ with Louise Dearman is something else. She talks to the audience with ease and great comical timing (who did she get that from, I wonder?), saying: “I’ll never need a psychoanalyst, when I have you to tell everything to.”
If you manage to see the show, I advise that you take tissues. I really do. I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotionally invested in a theatre production.
The theatre may not have been full, but that didn’t stop the entire cast giving an A1 show. The quality of performance was astounding. One can’t forget to give praise to Lorna’s husband, Colin Freeman, for his great ivory-tickling abilities. Also, considering that there wasn’t a live orchestra apart from piano, drums and bass (a slight shame, but that’s to be expected with a touring show), the pre recorded orchestrations sounded wonderful. The creative direction, set design, costumes and choreography gave the show a really clean, professional look.
We were sitting next to an old lady, and we were speaking to her during the interval. “It brings back all of the memories of songs I used to sing when I was young. I think I must have seen every one of her movies. Judy is my favourite.” She said. Doesn’t that say it all? Isn’t that the main aim of the production? To celebrate the music of a lady that gave, and continues to give, so much to so many?
‘Judy: The Songbook Of Judy Garland’ is a touching tribute to the woman that so many love, led by one of those who loves her most. If you have doubts, well then, you’re missing out!