I imagined opening this review suggesting that this is a ‘must see’ for any Judy Garland fan, but in fact this is a production so mesmerising I would advise anyone who enjoys a night of great entertainment to catch this when and wherever you can.
An obvious choice for the Judy Garland fans out there but there’s probably very few audience goers who could make it through the production without recognising a number from Garland’s legendary repertoire. I found myself nestling into my seat with a smug kind of glee when I was able to name a number merely from the introduction – this was an isolated event.
Featuring songs from Easter Parade, The Wizard of Oz and Meet me in St Louis – the production is under the creative directorship of award-winning director and choreographer Arlene Phillips and directed by Christopher Manoe.
A troupe of sophisticated dancers (The Boyfriends) kicked, flicked and twisted their way through various numbers - the quintessential old Hollywood type of routines, and in addition to the exquisitely choreographed numbers there were a catalogue of celebrated entertainers and singers.
Taking to the stage was West-End superstar Louise Dearman and X Factor/Dancing on Ice contestant Ray Quinn – it seems training in the world of reality television has paid off as his performance wasn’t as cringeworthy as you would think, just about.
The roof of the theatre almost flew off as swiftly as Dorothy’s Barn when Lorna Luft, the daughter of Judy Garland took to the stage to revive Garland’s songbook forty-six years after her death. She sang with a similar quality to Garland and performed with a high-level of razzmatazz. A magical moment arose when Dearman took to the stage with Luft as they crooned a medley of Get Happy, Happy Days and Hooray for Love originally performed between Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand.
The show’s finest attribute was the inclusion of Garland herself in late footage of the star which was projected behind the entertainment. It was a magical move - the old audio crackled and skipped as Garland’s voice boomed over the sound of timeworn applause.
The production ended with film footage of Somewhere over the Rainbow – slight sniffles wheedled their way through the stalls as we watched that little girl singing in sepia.
The production takes you through the star’s repertoire whilst simultaneously reminding you of her tragic downfall - an artistic choice? I don’t think so, but it’s difficult to stare into the vision of innocence and wish that she had never tapped her to heels together three times.