There’s a moment when watching End of the Rainbow that it becomes hard to believe Judy Garland is really gone, as Lisa Maxwell’s stellar performance as the Wizard of Oz star so closely resembles her every mannerism.
The blackly comic musical play written by Peter Quilter offers a tell-all insight into Judy Garland’s last few weeks spent in London, set in 1968, as the declining star attempts to drag herself on stage night after night in desperate need to clear her heavy debts. Often fuelled by drink and drugs, it becomes almost too upsetting to watch as the vulnerable star reluctantly returns to performing for a five-week season at the Talk of the Town.
With her new fiancé Mickey Deans in tow, played by Sam Attwater, Garland is reunited with one of her many devoted pianists, Anthony, brilliantly played by Gary Wilmot, and the men soon become tasked with keeping the frazzled star sober, though sadly not for long. Tantrums, tears and tussles ensue as clever staging takes us between the lavish hotel room and spotlight on stage, bringing to life the real struggle Garland suffered having been forced into the limelight at the tender age of 16.
Maxwell’s likeness to Garland is uncanny as she commands the stage with her nervous disposition and sharp wit, wrestling with a medley of addictions and becoming almost possessed with Garland’s raspy voice as she belts out classics including Over the Rainbow, The Trolley Song and The Man That Got Away.
Fragile and funny, the play is a touching tribute to the late queen of showbiz, taken to dazzling new heights with Maxwell’s unforgettable performance as Garland.
End of the Rainbow plays at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester until 20th February before embarking on a national tour. Visit www.endoftherainbowtour.co.uk for more details and to buy tickets.
Images: Pamela Raith Photography