Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Review: The Songbook of Judy Garland (UK Tour) starring Lorna Luft, Louise Dearman & Ray Quinn



The Songbook of Judy Garland (UK Tour)
New Wimbledon Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 16th June 2015
★★★★

Arlene Phillips' new show The Songbook of Judy Garland celebrates a true musical legend. Jam packed with almost thirty songs closely associated with Garland's career, Christopher Manoe's production provides an opportunity to reminisce over classics and be reminded of forgotten gems.

The cast is led by Garland's daughter Lorna Luft who takes to the stage with passion and old school charm. As well as putting her all into numbers such as 'The Man That Got Away' and 'Born In A Trunk', Luft tells a handful of wonderful stories between songs. From tales of life on the road to playing pranks in hotels, it is an absolute joy to watch Luft up onstage talking so fondly of her mother.

Dancing On Ice champion Ray Quinn impresses with slick dance ability whilst former Dirty Rotten Scoundrels star Darren Bennett shines with his rendition of 'I Love A Piano'. Rachel Stanley dazzles throughout, bringing bucket loads of pizzazz.

Proving there is nothing she cannot do, West End icon Louise Dearman (pictured right) steals the spotlight with impeccable vocals and alluring presence all evening. Her rendition of 'Stormy Weather' is sublime, but the evening's highlight is when Dearman joins Luft for a medley of 'Get Happy/Happy Days/Hooray For Love Medley' - a duet which Garland famously performed with an undiscovered Barbra Streisand

The slick design gives The Songbook of Judy Garland a classy feel. However, the show is let down by a lack of live music. Although a few musicians are seen playing onstage, most the orchestrations seem to be pre-recorded. The levels weren't always up to scratch, with vocals being drowned out on several occasions.

At the top of the show projections are used too heavily (mimicking the opening of a movie); however, the projections used between songs help to break up the evening, leading one song into another. Interviews and classic video footage are also incorporated throughout, offering a further insight into the first lady of show business.

Compared to an average tribute show, The Songbook of Judy Garland is in a league of its own. Concluding with a fitting staging of 'Over The Rainbow', the show is hugely enjoyable; Judy Garland fans will think they've died and gone to heaven.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Songbook of Judy Garland runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 6th June 2015. Please visit www.judygarlandsongbook.com for further information and tickets.

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