The Songbook of Judy Garland – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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songbook of judy garland

The Songbook of Judy Garland – Review

Bradford Alhambra, May 2015

by Sandra Callard

The legendary Judy Garland, a tiny 4 foot 11, held the world’s stage for nearly fifty years. She was a superlative singer, actress, comedian and raconteur, who died at the early age of 47. This new show, The Songbook of Judy Garland is headed by Judy’s daughter, Lorna Luft, herself an accomplished singer and actress, and is showing at Bradford’s Alhambra as part of a nationwide tour.

judy garland songbook bradfordThe cinematic opening shows clips of Garland’s films and interviews, and the cast bring songs from Judy’s numerous films, including ‘The Trolley Song’, ‘Meet Me in St Louis’, ‘Easter Parade’ and ‘Zing Went the Strings of my Heart’.

Luft does not appear until 45-minutes into the show, but the stage is competently held by some first class performers. Ray Quinn, who was runner up to Leona Lewis in the X Factor some years ago, is a good singer, dancer and actor. He does a brilliant job here, moving smoothly from Judy’s love songs to her jazzier pieces, with a fetching schoolboy charm.

“Vocal strength and enthusiasm”

Louise Dearman, a vastly experienced West End musical performer, is easy to watch and never puts a foot wrong. Similarly with Rachel Stanley and Darren Bennett, both efficient and talented singers and dancers, whose performances pay moving homage to a great star. It is an all-singing, all-dancing show, taking you back to the old Hollywood musicals.

The show relies somewhat heavily on recorded music and film clips of Garland, both singing and speaking, which gives a slightly sad feeling overall as she moves from joyous youth to frail and nerve-wracked middle age. However, all the singers have vocal strength and enthusiasm, and present Garland’s songs with expertise.

judy garland reviewChoreography is by top-liner, Arlene Phillips, and is slick and polished, as Luft’s dancing group, The Boyfriends, suavely and  smoothly accompany the songs.

“A nice touch”

Lorna is on stage for the greater part of the second half. She has a strong and powerful voice, which in no way resembles her mother’s, but is good in the louder pieces, such as ‘Swanee’. Luft and Dearman perform the famous duet Garland sang with the then little-known Barbara Streisand, comprising songs such as ‘Get Happy’, ‘Hooray for Love’ and Happy Days’, which were perfect for Luft’s voice.

I was pleased to see that nobody attempted to sing Garland’s signature song, ‘Over the Rainbow’, but merely stood, backs to the audience as they listened to her recording of the song. A nice touch, as anything else would have been a travesty.

The show has more of a cabaret feel than a stage show, but the many Judy Garland fans in the audience showed their appreciation, vocally and on their feet, to the artists on stage, and in tribute to one of the greatest performers in show-business.

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