Think blue birds, yellow brick roads, and rainbows. All those images conjure up the incredible singing voice of one of America’s sweethearts, Judy Garland. Ironically, however, she never found the happiness and innocence that fame and success should have brought her. From the time she was discovered, the child of vaudeville stars who began performing as one of the Gumm sisters at the age of just over 2 years, she was plagued by insecurities that she wasn’t pretty enough or thin enough.
While she brought great joy to millions with her bigger than life voice, she never found the secret to happiness for herself. Now she is making another comeback, soon to marry her fifth husband, and finally at the “End of the Rainbow,” a play by Peer Quilter, now at Music Theatre of Connecticut until Sunday, April 23. Here we meet a tortured and aggressive Judy, outrageous and out of control, addicted to alcohol and prescription pills, searching for the illusive rainbow. Coleen Sexton as Judy is disintegrating before our eyes, painfully and poignantly, weighted down by a decade of debts and in great need of being rescued.
Her newest knight is Luke Darnell as Mickey, willing to feed her addictions if it suits his needs. When she threatens to leave the stage and her commitments to perform, he is suddenly willing to supply the booze and pills that will guarantee she sings. As her pianist Anthony, Thomas Conroy cares sincerely for her fate and is willing to do anything, even marry her if it will keep her safe. The two men are at great odds as to what Judy needs most and are so busy fighting with each other that she gets lost in the confrontation. Matt Densky serves as bellhop and interviewer and innocent referee to the struggles.
As Judy, Coleen Sexton portrays a woman who needs unconditional love, who has the ability to fall down and get right back up again for the next round of battle. With glory and pain, she belts out tunes like “The Man That Got Away,” “When You’re Smiling,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Just in Time,” “The Bells Are Ringing" and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” It’s December 1968 in London and she has a six week singing engagement that is testing her endurance and may prove too much for the star. Kevin Connors delves into this dramatic and personal portrayal with eyes wide open and a heart that is bruised.
For tickets ($35-55), call Music Theatre of CT, 509 Westport Avenue, behind Nine West Shoes, Norwalk (route 1) at 203- 454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Come to the New England premiere of “End of the Rainbow” and discover whether happy little blue birds fly to that promised pot of gold after all.