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In Tracie Bennett Sings Judy: Songs From The Broadway Production ‘End of the Rainbow’ & Other Garland Classics, English stage and TV actress Tracie Bennett performs standards and other Garland numbers that catapulted Judy Garland to stardom.
End of the Rainbow is a musical drama that offers insight into Garland’s final months before her untimely death in 1969 at the age of 47. The show premiered in Sydney, Australia, before appearing in London and then Broadway with Bennett playing the lead role of Judy Garland in the latter productions. Nominated for an Olivier Award (England’s version of a Tony Award), critics raved about Bennett’s uncanny impersonation of the Hollywood idol. Pulling this off was probably no easy task since Garland had a contralto voice, the lowest female voice type, most often heard in classical and operatic pieces.
Garland will forever be known for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and it is with this image in mind that I began listening to the soundtrack. Bennett’s opening notes perfectly embody the richly husky and raspy quality that was Garland’s trademark voice, but after that, it all falls apart. Given that this is musical theater, it’s only natural to expect a lively and boisterous performance, but the CD gets downright obnoxious as Bennett shouts to keep up with the melody and goes overboard with the vocal effects.
However, with that being said, perhaps that is also what made the play a smashing success. Unlike the iconic gingham-clad character she’s recognized for, Garland’s personal life was far from wholesome. For years she was demeaned by film executives who called her unattractive, found herself in financial troubles and struggled with a drug and alcohol addiction. Therefore, if this play focuses on the period before her death, when she was likely spiraling out of control, the dreadful musical presentation makes sense. If we were to watch this unfolding on stage, then Garland/Bennett’s desperation for a comeback would shine through. Unfortunately, the CD is all we have to go on, and by the final track, we indeed find ourselves at the end of the rainbow…