|"Well constructed and heartfelt portrayal"|
by David Rumelle on 11/05/13
-I would urge anyone attending Gregoire Aubert's moving performance as Judy Garland not to expect a Jim Bailey life-like/look-alike /sound-alike-carbon copy!
But one does come away with a feeling of having explored this great icon in depth, understood the true story of her appalling treatment by the Hollywood system and ultimately her return as one as the last true stars.
And this show works on a far higher level- one overlooks the physical/facial and vocal differences between the actor and the original and accepts an amalgam of the two-telling a fascinating story.
This time round the show is being performed in a basement function room in a small hotel-but it could easily be in any moderately sized theatre or studio space. A power point presentation on the back wall-can be distracting at times and could be used sparingly-but it does keep us on track with Judy's timeline.
Aubert knows his subject well-and has obviously studied Garland's movement, expression ,gestures and above all-hands !He is so focussed and so " in character" that it doesn't take long for him to weave theatrical magic on us all-his hair- style, profile and delivery almost dream-like in quality.(just look at those repeats on Sky arts to see the un-canny re-creation)
The first act is undoubtedly a cry from the heart of the great performer having to cope with being "abused" by Hollywood, filming with constant Migraine's and a strong theme of the show is the one of drug abuse , addiction and the dangers of medication- still poignantly relevant today. Aubert's portrayal in these sections of Judy's courage and fortitude is particularly moving.
All this is cleverly punctuated by Garland songs sung over the original-a touch that again works on two levels - emphasising Aubert's acute study of Garland's gestures and stage presence, without being distracted by vocal impersonation.
By contrast-the second act(complete with a change of hair style and outfit) explores Garland's realisation as a stage performer at heart and the passion of Judy's songs shines through ,making one realise that the star only found her true self later on in life. By the end of the show-Aubert's spell has worked and we are left with a bittersweet feeling as if one has witnessed a piece of history.
Maybe a few shorter sections of musical numbers throughout, more narrative in the second half and ending on a number would complete the picture and round off the evening for us -but these are small points in an otherwise well constructed and heartfelt portrayal.
I would very much like to see this show in a larger venue in the near future and will certainly be returning to see it again before the end of its run on 2nd June.
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