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Swift Creek Mill Theatre Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall

By • May 14th, 2014 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall
Swift Creek Mill Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Swift Creek Mill Theatre, Colonial Heights, VA
Through June 7th
2:35 with intermission
$38/$55 With Dinner
Reviewed May 10th, 2014

Judy Garland is probably the most impersonated performer there is; making Swift Creek Mill Theatre’s production of Beyond the Rainbow a great challenge. Fortunately, Grey Garrett is up to the challenge of taking on the role.

While there was only one Judy, Garrett is fascinating in creating many of Garland’s mannerisms, body motions and facial expressions. Vocally, her performance contains much of Garland’s range and emotion. While she doesn’t always reach the depths of Garland’s vibrato, and it is clear you are not listening to the legend herself, she is believable and authentic in her characterization.

Beyond the Rainbow uses Garland’s famous 1961 come back concert at Carnegie Hall (slightly before my time) to frame Garland’s life story. Through brief vignettes, writer William Randall Beard shows the pain and turmoil Frances Gumm went thru to become the emotionally damaged Judy Garland. The portrayals of each chapter of her life shows what lead up to her committing suicide at such a young age, as she desperately sought someone to love her and someone she could lean on and rely on.

It is a bit of a conundrum to evaluate the performance of Grace Mincks as the younger Judy, starting at age 4. Clearly, it is a challenge for any one actress to cover over 30 years of a person’s life. Mincks is not very believable as a toddler, but as Garland ages, Mincks becomes more and more authentic both emotionally and vocally. While she does not come as close as Garrett in replicating Garland’s trademark vocals, she definitely has a powerful, booming and appealing voice of her own.

Lisa Kotula is stoic and cold as Garland’s stage mother, Ethel Gumm. Three other actors round out the cast playing multiple roles. The multi-talented ensemble add humor and energy throughout the play. Vicki McLeod is hilarious as Hedda Hopper, among others. Frank Creasy capably shifts between several of the villains in Garland’s life including Louis B. Mayer and Sid Loft. Richard Koch is spot on as Ray Bolger and George Jessell; but it is a bit creepy having him portray Garland’s father, Frank Gumm at some points, then make out with her as her husband Vincente Minelli in others.

One of the biggest weaknesses in this production however is in the technical areas. As even my 15-year-old son pointed out, Tom Width’s set is rather visually boring with just classic white pillars and a black back drop curtain. Joe Doran’s lights are very directional, causing the cast to often walk in and out of spotlights into darkness while still performing. Also, a center stage ramp, added to the smallness of the stage and tended to inhibit Garrett from turning some of the big numbers into the full-fledged productions they could have been.

Still, since Garland has been gone for 50 years, Garrett and Mincks’ talents make Beyond the Rainbow the closest we can come to experiencing the legend live today.

Photo Gallery

Grey Garrett as Judy Garland Frank Creasy as Louis B. Mayer and Vickie McLeod as Mayer's Assistant
Grey Garrett as Judy Garland
Frank Creasy as Louis B. Mayer and Vickie McLeod as Mayer’s Assistant
Grey Garrett as Judy Garland, Lisa Kotula as Ethel Gumm, Grace Minks as Young Judy Garland, Frank Creasy as Louis B. Mayer, Richard Koch as Vincente Minelli Frank Creasy as Sid Luft, Grey Garrett as Judy Garland, Grace Minks as Young Judy Garland
Grey Garrett as Judy Garland, Lisa Kotula as Ethel Gumm, Grace Minks as Young Judy Garland, Frank Creasy as Louis B. Mayer, Richard Koch as Vincente Minelli
Frank Creasy as Sid Luft, Grey Garrett as Judy Garland, Grace Minks as Young Judy Garland

Photos by Robyn O’Neill

The Cast

  • Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall: Grey Garrett
  • Judy Garland in memory: Grace Mincks
  • Ethel Gumm: Lisa Kotula
  • Kay Thompson, Hedda Hopper, Mayer’s Assistant, Wardrobe Assistant: Vicki McLeod
  • Stage Hand, Frank Gumm, Vincente Minelli, George Jessell, Ray Bolger, Mickey Rooney, Walter, Bob Hope, Reporter, Attendant, TV Director: Richard Koch
  • Announcers, Lousi B. Mayer, Sid Loft, Manager, Reporter, Jack Haley, Minelli’s Trick: Frank Creasy

The Crew

  • Director: Tom Width
  • Musical Director: Paul Deiss
  • Stage Manager: Tom Width
  • Set Designer: Tom Width
  • Lighting Design: Joe Doran
  • Light Board Op: Becky Lussier
  • Costume Design: Maura Lynch Cravey
  • Sound Board Op: Stephen West
  • Follow Spot Op: Jesse Mattes
  • Props: Tom Width
  • Photography: Robyn O’Neill

Disclaimer: Swift Creek Mill Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

This article can be linked to as: http://showbizradio.com/go/10103.

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