I was in Naples, Florida for nearly a month but, to quote the character of Judy Garland in The Boy From Oz when Peter Allen comments that she must be rested after her 15-hour coma, "It wasn't a holiday!" Getting a musical up on its feet in nine rehearsals is no mean feat, so a good bit of my "off" time was spent practicing whatever choreography, blocking, or harmony parts I'd been assigned and continuing to explore my circa-1964 Judy characterization and approach to the songs in the show — which were challenging because Judy never actually sang them.Read More
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”).Read More
It's six weeks until rehearsals begin for The Boy From Oz and nine weeks until our Love Finds Judy Garland performance, so at the Ellison-Flanders household it's All-Garland, All-the-Time. Other than some time out for cookie-baking, which I will only be able to taste very sparingly (because do you recall how thin Judy was in 1964?), that's going to be number one on the to-do list until we leave for Naples.
After an initial few readings of the Boy From Oz script and songs, I've deliberately held back from touching cracking them open again until I immersed myself in Judy's biographies, memoirs, recordings, interviews, and television shows from the period of the show: mid-1964, just after her Australian tour, until her death in 1969 at the age of 47. But now I'm beginning to get that familiar feeling of a character starting to take residence in my body, so I think it's going to be time to start letting her out this week, at least on a short leash. (This is likely to scare my husband.) Since there are only nine rehearsal days to put the show on its feet, lines and songs need to be memorized before our first rehearsal, research needs to be finished, and the basic physicalization and voice need to be habitual enough that it's not taking all of my attention any more.Read More
By this time, it should go without saying that I am a lifelong card-carrying Judy Garland fan. But until fairly recently, I’d shied away from “Judy the Icon” — Judy post-Hollywood, even (mostly) Judy post-1944. I was always more drawn to the sweetness and vulnerability, the sunniness and unspoiled humor she brought to her film roles, recordings, and radio broadcasts circa 1936-1944, and found the later recordings and appearances I’d randomly run across brittle, edgy, and somehow off-putting and disturbing. Perhaps I just wanted her to stay Dorothy and Betsy Booth forever. And I’d heard a few recordings over the years in which she clearly had laryngitis, so I’d made the completely erroneous extrapolation (reinforced by some biographers and playwrights, I’m sorry to say) that it was all downhill, when in reality it just varied depending on her health and the tour or shooting schedule.Read More
If you are just tuning in, Mark and I are in the middle of rewrites for Love Finds Judy Garland, our radio-style theatrical music show. Last week’s project on my arranging desk was “After You’ve Gone,” based on a 1946 Bing Crosby recording with Eddie Condon and his Orchestra. Our show takes place in April of ‘44, but the style is close enough — and much more in the groove than Bing’s 1929 recording of the same tune with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Why “After You’ve Gone”?Read More
It’s that time again: we are embarking on another rewrite of our Judy Garland radio-style show for an August debut, so I’m once again up to my ears in arranging the new songs and hoping we will not end up dumping them after one performance! This will be the first outing under the new title, Love Finds Judy Garland, which is an homage/blatant rip-off of one of our favorite Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films, Love Finds Andy Hardy. (My husband and artistic partner, Mark Flanders, claims that he came up with the new title, but I actually remember the entire thought process by which I came up with it. This is one of the many splendors of a long-time live-work relationship.)Read More