The luxurious refurbishment of the Everyman Theatre's auditorium provides a stunning extension to the grand set for End of the Rainbow. The Frank Matcham venue is equally as extravagant as the Chelsea hotel room where Peter Quilter's story of Judy Garland's residency, during her renowned Talk of the Town season, takes place.
The psychological battle between Frances Ethel Gumm and Judy Garland forms the characterisation for Tracie Bennett's first-class performance. The iconic performer is captured at the peak of her demise in this production and Bennet's Olivier Award nominated depiction provides a gripping insight to her mind-set. Flippant yet poised, confused but focused, Bennett's riveting portrayal is unpredictable and captivating. Her delivery and energy creates a whirlwind on stage that leaves you wanting to know where her delivery and direction will venture next, over the journey of the plot.
Hilton McRae's sarcastic and understated performance creates a neutral counter to the colourful Garland hurricane. The rivalry between the fiancé (Norman Bowman) and pianist (McRae) fades into the scenary. Judy Garland takes centre stage in this production and, even when in the wings, she never gives up the spotlight. Each time McRae edges towards the piano the audience wills a recognisable melody to further showcase Tracie Bennett's remarkable performance. Moving swiftly between the intimate off-stage arguments and live stage veneer, hit after hit captures the essence of the period and the mood of the character.
Outstanding doesn't begin to do justice in describing a performance like no other. Don't wait to meet this show in St Louis - watch it in every town it visits on this regional tour!
End of the Rainbow runs at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, until Saturday 5 November. The production continues a UK Tour at Theatre Royal, Bath (Mon 7 – Sat 12 November); Sheffield Lyceum (Mon 14 – Sat 19 November); and Richmond Theatre (Mon 21 – Sat 26 November).