If you want to see a haunting performance you will never forget, this is the Broadway show to see.

From the moment she enters on stage, Tracie Bennett is Judy Garland.  And, you feel it from every nuanced facial expression, frenetic move, song delivery, pill chugging episode, etc.

No surprise she’s nominated for a 2012 Tony Award for Best Actress.  Bennett is a British actress who is making her Broadway debut, having played the role in West End (London) and Guthrie Theatre productions.

In END OF THE RAINBOW, it’s December 1968, and the beloved, but broke and broken Judy Garland is poised to make a triumphant comeback. In a London hotel room with her manager/young fiancé/future fifth husband (Tom Pelphrey) and loyal pianist and friend (2012 Tony-nominated Michael Cumpsty) at her side, Garland prepares to undertake a series of concerts at London’s famed Talk of the Town with her signature cocktail of talent, tenacity and razor-sharp wit, revealing a brilliant star in her most demanding role: her life.

Bennett brings alive some of Garland’s most memorable songs with the accompaniment of an onstage band, including “THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY,” “COME RAIN OR SHINE,” “THE TROLLEY SONG” and “SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW.” You feel like you are right there witnessing Garland live and electric, and you feel her pain. At times, it is brutally painful to watch, yet you can’t take your eyes off the train wreck in progress.  There are some laughs, even if we hate to chuckle while watching Garland crawl around the floor like a dog and raise her leg in a mock “pee,” after ingesting prescription pills meant for a dog.

Written by Peter Quilter, little insight is shared re: what led Garland to this point.  Perhaps it’s presumed that most theatregoers know of her intense personal struggles.  But, there are revealing, moments when she mentions her mother’s influence, and Cumpsty thanks Garland for saving his life, and we start to realize that she is as much providing a life for lonely souls around her as they endeavor to sober her up and care for her.  A deeper exploration of this, versus serving as a performance vehicle for Bennett, would have been compelling.

That said,the show is a tour-de-force, and one that sticks with you.   

END OF THE RAINBOW is directed by Terry Johnson, with musical direction by Jeffrey Saver.  Tom Pelphrey, as Deans, and Michael Cumpsty, as Anthony, are on the mark with their portrayals, and Jay Russell plays multiple supporting roles with aplomb, generating some appreciated comedic moments.

Presented by Lee Dean, Laurence Myers, Joey Parnes, Ellis Goodman, Shadowcatcher Entertainment/Alhadeff Productions, National Angels U.S., Charles Diamond/Jenny Topper, Myla Lerner/Andrew Bryan, Spring Sirkin/Candy Gold, Hilary Williams, and S.D. Wagner and John Johnson, in association with Guthrie Theatre, at the Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St., NYC. For tickets, phone  (212) 239-6200 or visit

Photo by Carol Rosegg