End of the Rainbow (Richmond Theatre)

Originally posted on my LiveJournal blog on 26 November 2011.

Peter Quilter’s incredible musical drama about the final weeks of the life of Judy Garland first ran at the Trafalgar Studios in the West End, where we saw it just before it closed to go on tour. 

The same cast – Tracie Bennett as Judy, Hilton McRae as Anthony (a composite character representing Judy’s many gay pianists), Norman Bowman as Mickey Deans (Judy’s last husband and drug dealer) – are still performing at the top of their form.  Bennett’s turn as Garland is nothing short of phenomenal in both acting and singing.  OK, she might be a little OTT but then so was Judy in filmed performances in her final years.  Watch her in ‘I Could Go On Singing’ and then watch Tracie Bennett singing ‘The Man That Got Away’ and it is a very close impersonation (Bennett won Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes back in 2000 with her mimicry of Garland).

Supporting Bennett in yet another solid character turn is the underrated and talented Hilton McRae who never disappoints and here has definite chances to shine – both funny and heartbreaking, his love/hate relationship with the woman he clearly adores is touching and very real.  As Deans, Norman Bowman doesn’t have as much to do and is overshadowed by Bennett and McRae but he doesn’t seem to mind.  And after nearly two years working together on this production the timing and chemistry between the leads (plus Robert Maskell, who fills in with a few tiny parts, is flawless.

Highly recommended and heading to Broadway after this current tour.