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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

ATI finishes its 2016-17 season batting 1.000 as it closes with William Randall Beard’s Beyond the Rainbow, the song-filled tale of Judy Garland’s life as an entertainer and icon. Centering on the 1961 Carnegie Hall concert given by the then 38 year old singer/actress/star, the unique show structure displays both the concert experience and a running storyline of the triumphs and troubles of first Girl Judy, then of Judy, the rising star.

Director Don Farrell has created a masterwork of staging and performance with his cast of six, featuring a trio of terrific Judys aided by three particularly strong turns by his supporting actors.

Judys

(From left) Annie Yokom, Katy Gentry and Anjali Rooney star as Judy, Garland and Girl Judy in ATI’s production of “Beyond the Rainbow”.

“Garland”, the concert performer in the piece, is presented in an astonishingly accurate depiction by Katy Gentry. Ms. Gentry rolls through the Garland concert catalogue not merely expertly sounding as Ms. Garland did – her rendering of the singer is enhanced with all the stage mannerisms and indeed even the “look” of the celebrated star. Ms. Gentry’s undeniable vocal talents are a significant piece of the portrayal, but her acting abilities carry us into the presence of Judy Garland.

Likewise, Annie Yokom, who provides a struggling “Judy”, the post-Andy Hardy Garland in the story, has her character’s voice and style mastered. Touching on the many conflicts and influential factors in Garland’s adult life, Ms. Yokom’s performance is intense and evocative, imparting the often rougher side of her character’s career as a star. Her outstanding singing talent is on display in several numbers and again, the spot-on replication of Garland is uncanny.

Garland’s earlier years are shown through Anjali Rooney’s spirited offering, “Girl Judy”. This young actress has an easy manner on stage and she handles her role with polished professionalism as well as a delightful singing voice.

supporting cast

Seen with Annie Yokom (seated) as Judy, supporting cast members (from left) Roger Ortman, Grace Sell and Dave Ruark appear in a scene from ATI’s production of “Beyond the Rainbow”.

The supporting roles in this show demand a wide array of characters from each of Mr. Farrell’s charges. Grace Sell, Dave Ruark, and Roger Ortman fill the bill, providing a series of fully realized characters in Ms. Garland’s life. Ms. Sell is terrific as Judy’s pushy mother, Ethel, and brings a varied disposition to the powerful columnist, Hedda Hopper. Among Dave Ruark’s long list of characters is Garland’s supportive father – Frank Gumm, her first husband – director Vincente Minnelli, and a boyish Mickey Rooney, all done with an adroit touch. Roger Ortman shines in his diverse roles including the harsh MGM studio head, Louis Mayer and, in an absolutely explosive performance, Garland’s second husband – Sid Luft.

Musical support for this song-rich program is provided by Musical Director John Bronston at the piano – with Greg Gegogeine playing bass, Steve Stickler on multiple woodwinds and Greg Wolff handling percussion. This small group provides big music and is a vital part of the show. P. Bernard Killian’s smart and simple set design allows for seamless storytelling, while costumes by Stephen Hollenbeck and wigs/makeup by Daniel Klingler put finishing touches on the magic. Erin Meyer’s lighting adds dramatic effect.

Bottom line: The layers of combined songs and stories are crafted to play off each other, realizing the quote by Garland that “The story of my life is in my songs.” Indeed, this assembly of words and lyrics act as an emotional memoir of the legendary Miss Judy Garland. And ATI has yet another exciting and unique offering.

Beyond the Rainbow continues at ATI’s Studio Theatre in the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel through May 14. You can get information about the schedule and tickets by calling 317.843.3800 or by logging onto http://www.atistage.org .

  • – Photo provided by ATI
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