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Tracie Bennett in "End of the Rainbow" at the Belasco Theatre
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Tracie Bennett in "End of the Rainbow" at the Belasco Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Lee Dean, Laurence Myers, Joey Parnes
et al.
in association with
Guthrie Theater

Tracie Bennett

End of the Rainbow
(End of the Rainbow Website)

By Peter Quilter

Tom Pelphrey, Jay Russell, Michael Cumpsty

Directed by Terry Johnson

Belasco Theatre
111 West 44th Street

Scenic & Costume Design: William Dudley
Lighting Design: Christopher Akerlind
Sound Design: Gareth Owen
Orchestrations: Chris Egan
Musical Arrangements: Gareth Valentine
Music Direction: Jeffrey Saver
Music Coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Casting: Pat McCorkle
Production Stage Manager: Mark Dobrow
Press: O&M Co.
Advertising & Marketing: aka

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 16, 2012 Matinee

Tracie Bennett becomes, physically, psychically, and in personality Judy Garland, late in her brief life, in Peter Quilter’s new play, End of the Rainbow, now at the Belasco Theatre. She’s diminutive, depressed, dynamic, delicate, devilish, and destined. That is, destined to give it all up for her fans, her lovers, and her few, devoted friends. As Ms. Garland, Ms. Bennett stuffs psychotic drugs, stimulants and relaxants into her bag, her pockets, her suitcase, her drawers, and wherever she can remember where they are. A life of preparing herself for roused up audiences, a life of besting her own most recent performances, a life of public obsession with her marriages, her escapades, and, most importantly, her films and music has her now worn to the bone. And, bony she is, although so contortionist, she almost seems fabricated from tiny muscle.

The play’s ensemble includes, besides Ms. Bennett, Michael Cumpsty, as Anthony, Garland’s loyal pianist and very close friend, Tom Pelphrey, as Mickey Deans, Garland’s last fiancé, and Jay Russell, in a few minor roles. Mr. Cumpsty is a superb character actor, with refined gestures, as a gay man in love with Garland, for who she is, for what’s she’s endured, and for what she’s done for him, emotionally. He proposes marriage, with an offer of comfort and safety, platonic, that is. Garland, however, is filled with lust and life, and, as Woody Allen once said, she “needs the eggs”. She sticks with Mickey, even though he allows her to consume the very drugs that are ravaging her wasted bones and being. The audience sees it all, a young man, late in life husband, to a very famous star, a woman whose legacy will reap riches for decades to come. Mickey’s was a shallow kind of love, fabricated on self-survival. Yet, Garland’s very survival seemed intertwined with Mickey’s; he was her man.

Garland’s Ritz Hotel suite in London was rarely paid up, so much of this two-act play has Garland conniving or charming or coercing the manager for a few more days, a few more meals, a few more bottles. William Dudley’s hotel set was splendidly dark, filled with slightly tarnished veneer. His nightclub scenes were stark, helped by Christopher Akerlind’s clever, colorful lighting. Mr. Dudley also created costumes, some of which Ms. Bennett tossed off like napkins. In fact, she was often so hyper, stammering, shouting, swearing, swiveling, that it’s a wonder the costumes and small, curled wig stayed on at all. Ms. Bennett has an outstanding voice, but, more pointedly, her ability to mimic Garland was so surreal. It was more reincarnation than reenacting. Terry Johnson directed the cast for maximum tension and untamed entertainment. A five-piece band was filled with jazzy interpretations of Garland’s finest. Kudos to all.

Michael Cumpsty, Tracie Bennett,
Tom Pelphrey in "End of the Rainbow"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Tracie Bennett in "End of the Rainbow"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Tracie Bennett in "End of the Rainbow"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

Tracie Bennett and Tom Pelphrey
in "End of the Rainbow"
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at