If you’ve tuned-in to this blog lately, you will know that I’m preparing to play the role of “Judy Garland,” circa 1964, in The Boy From Oz at TheatreZone in Naples, Florida. You’d have to ask director Mark Danni, but I believe the rights only recently became available in the U.S. again, so this will be among the first regional productions since the 2003 Broadway smash starring Hugh Jackman as Australian singer-songwriter Peter Allen.
Peter Allen, of course, became Judy’s opening act for a time in the mid-‘60s after they met in Hong Kong, and married her daughter, Liza Minelli. My role in this production is therefore very much a supporting one, as I will have passed over the rainbow before the end of Act I; Broadway veteran Larry Alexander will be doing the heavy lifting as Peter. Nonetheless, I’m finding the role preparation quite an absorbing challenge (see “Becoming Judy Garland”).
Actually, even being down in Naples for three and a half weeks will be an interesting challenge for my husband Mark and I, although the fact that the theatre is kindly putting us up in the first-floor suite of a mansion on a bay, a block from the beach, does make it a bit less-so — hardly your typical Actors’-Equity-compliant housing! Mark is traveling with me not only to escape the worst of Cleveland’s winter (so far a mild one) and make sure I don’t unwittingly morph into Judy Garland in real life; we will also be performing our 1944 radio-style theatrical piece, Love Finds Judy Garland at TheatreZone, on February 16, two days after Boy From Oz closes its two-week run. We are especially honored and tickled to be on the same cabaret series as pop star Melissa Manchester, who I feel like I go way back with because I sang her hit “Through the Eyes of Love” (the theme from Ice Castles — remember that ice-skating movie?) to close my 6th-grade solo voice and piano recital. (I seem to recall the recital also included all three movements of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and the Maple Leaf Rag so it must have been a pretty eclectic program!) And legendary song-and-dance man Tommy Tune is coming down to perform his show as a benefit for the theatre just before we arrive. It’s all very exciting, and a completely new foray into the Florida theatrical scene for us — a scene that friends and fans have been telling us we should check out for the last decade and a half, so it seems good to finally be doing so.
Mark is nearly finished with a major rewrite of the Love Finds….script, meaning that he’s been up writing until 4:30 a.m. for these past many weeks. And I have just finished arranging two new songs, “That Old Black Magic” for Mark to sing, based on a Sinatra radio performance, and “I Got Rhythm,” based on Judy’s Decca recording (and my fourth time arranging the tune), as a new show closer. We hope you will be able to join us on February 16, and also catch a performance of The Boy From Oz, which runs February 4-14. Here’s the ticket link for both shows.
Here’s wishing you “All Happiness” (as Judy would have said) in 2016. I’ll leave you with Judy singing “I Got Rhythm” in the MGM film, Girl Crazy. Who could ask for anything more?