It’s Judy Judy Judy in the new show aptly titled Judy now playing at the Arts Theatre in Central London.
The intertwining of Judy’s lives in this show is both fantastic and fabulous. It’s also tragic because Judy died at the age of 47 in London due to an overdose of barbiturates in 1969 (a few days later the Stonewall riots kicked off). Judy had such a tumultuous life, and it didn’t make matters any better in that she was an extremely insecure, and nervous, woman. Young Judy’s father (played by Joe Shefer) ran a cinema, but he also had a predilection for young boys. Her mother Ethel (Amanda Bailey) was an extremely controlling stage mother. But Palace Judy’s life isn’t much better. In her 20’s she takes various drugs just to help her get through each day, and even though she married five times, it was Sid Luft (Harry Anton) who was the one who really cared for her.
But CBS Judy (who actually opens the show with a rounding version of ‘Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries’ – sung brilliantly by Sheals) seems to be on the right track – she’s got a hit television show – but the network keeps on demanding more and more from her, and the bills keep piling up. It’s too much for a woman as fragile as Judy to take, and even though her death is not played out on stage, we all know what’s going to happen to her next.
Judy is excellent. It’s all due to the three women who play Judy, they are all very good – but it’s Penrose who shines a bit more because she plays the version of Judy who is young and innocent, and Penrose conveys that excellently. When all three sing ‘Almost Like Being in Love’ – it’s an event! And when all three get together to sing the finale – ‘Over the Rainbow’ – there’s not a dry eye in the house.
Director and writer Ray Rackham, along with the rest of his crew, have staged a musical that tells the life of Judy Garland who was larger than life. And the parallel timeframes used in this production is genius. Cleverly, the musicians also act in the show, including Judith Kramer, who plays CBS Judy’s assistant. This same production was at the intimate Southwark Playhouse last year and it’s good to see that practically the same cast and crew were brought back to stage this show in a bigger theatre for more people to watch it.
Judy is a fabulous and fantastic show. It’s only playing at the Arts Theatre until June 17th, so catch it as soon as you can. Tickets can be bought here: