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Beyond the Rainbow
Jan 29, 2010 - Feb 21, 2010
Beyond the Rainbow
By William Randall Beard
A Co-Production with the Des Moines Playhouse
Presented at the Des Moines Playhouse
Iowa Premiere Production
DATE Jan. 29- Feb. 21, 2010
The story of my life is in my songs.” … Judy Garland
It’s 1961, and Judy Garland is performing what the New York Times called “the concert of the century.” Woven into her concert performance are memories from her past … family, husbands, friends, costars and critics. The life and legacy of an American icon, told through the show’s 25 songs, including “The Trolley Song,” “Stormy Weather,” “The Man That Got Away” and “Over the Rainbow.” Go beyond the rainbow with this illuminating and engaging new musical entertainment.
StageWest Theatre Company is very proud to again collaborate with the Des Moines Playhouse on a unique, new, theatrical experience for Central Iowa theater artists and audiences. Our first two co-productions, “The Exonerated” and “Metamorphoses,” demonstrated the possibilities of collaborative efforts – the future is indeed bright.
Garland – Preshia Paulding
Ethel Gumm – Sue Gerver
Kay Thompson, Hedda Hopper, et al – Sarah Hinzman
Young Judy – KtMarie Scarcello
Frank Gumm, Jack Haley, et al – Kevin Spire
Louis B. Mayer – Greg Millar
Sid Luft – Charlie Reese
George Jessell, Mickey Rooney, Bob Hope, et al – Shawn Jones
Vincente Minnelli, Ray Bolger, et al – Mike Tweeton
Director – Deena Conley
Choreographer – Megan Helmers
Music Director – Philip King
Production Stage Manager – Kiley Fattor
Scenic Designer – Casey Gradischnig
Lighting Designer – Jim Trenberth
Costume Designer – Angela Lampe
Properties Designer – Joy Kripal
‘RAINBOW’ SINGS WITH THE ‘VOICE’ OF GARLAND
By BRUCE CARR • Special to the Register • February 2, 2010
Come for the songs (there are 26 of them) but stay for The Voice. That’s Preshia Paulding’s voice, which is the bedrock upon which the Des Moines Playhouse production of “Beyond the Rainbow” is built.
She has done Judy Garland here before (in a comedy played at StageWest a few seasons back), but it’s hard not to imagine that “Beyond the Rainbow” was conceived from the very beginning with Preshia Paulding’s extraordinary vocal and dramatic talents in mind.
Paulding, who is on stage for the entire two-plus-hour show, personates Judy Garland in her late 30s, preparing and delivering her April 1961 one-woman show at Carnegie Hall. (It was a fabulous success: the live recording “Judy at Carnegie Hall” won five Grammy Awards and went Gold within a year.)
Behind the main scene, evoked by the ongoing concert, appear the ghosts of Garland’s famously troubled past: her theatrical parents, two of her five husbands, her manipulative MGM boss Louis B. Mayer, her co-stars, friends, and critics – all moving in and out of her consciousness as she sings.
“Preparing” includes the booze and pills on which she has come to rely.
Author William Randall Beard has taken a cue from Judy Garland’s remark that “the history of my life is in my songs” to create the show. “Beyond the Rainbow” is a joint presentation of the Des Moines Playhouse and StageWest (their fourth collaboration), and is inventively directed by Deena Conley against a projected backdrop of constantly shifting images showing news clips, places and events from the 1930s and ’40s.
The 24 people from Judy Garland’s past are acted by a cast of eight, including most especially the appealing KtMarie Scarcello as the young and vulnerable Judy, whom everybody wants a piece of. Scarcello aptly projects not only the girl’s versatile talent and her impetuous love of the spotlight, but also her confusion and eventual anger at being belittled over her looks.
The moments when Scarcello gets to sing with Paulding as her 1961 self are some of the most moving in the show.
Supporting roles (not all so well sketched by playwright Beard as the principals) are taken by Kevin Spire (Judy’s loving father), Sue Gerver (her archetypal bitchy stage mother), Greg Millar (the villainous Louis B. Mayer), and Mike Tweeton (the adoring director and husband Vincente Minnelli).
Charlie Reese is outstanding as Sid Luft, the ambitious manager and husband who made the deals that kept Garland working. Sarah Hinzman makes a fluttery Hedda Hopper, and Shawn Jones gets some laughs as Bob Hope, among several others. Philip King plays the piano and directs the energetic four-piece band.
But Preshia Paulding is the star. She is as convincing and stylish in the intimately personal songs (“You Made Me Love You,” “Do It Again,” and of course “Over the Rainbow”) as she is in the exuberant shouters (“The Trolley Song,” “Be a Clown,” “That’s Entertainment,” “After You’ve Gone). You’ll remember her singing long after you’ve gone from this highly entertaining show at the Playhouse.
SOLID GOLD PERFORMANCE IS PART OF THIS ‘RAINBOW’
by John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
January 16, 2010 The creative powers at the Des Moines Playhouse and StageWest Theatre Company combine forces in their fourth collaboration, Beyond the Rainbow, by William Randall Beard. The results are a show which glows with a glittering allure thanks to an incomparable performance by tour de force leading lady, Preshia Paulding, as Judy Garland. This Iowa premier is a perfect storm of a new musical for Iowans to savor, two exceptional producing collaborators, and a born-to-the-role leading lady in Paulding.
Beyond the Rainbow originated in Minnesota, the birth state of Garland, neé Frances Gumm. This show intertwines specters of Garland’s past with her iconic 1961 concert, dubbed by the New York Times as “the concert of the century.” While Beard’s script lacks a strong storyline, the key lies in the starring role being filled by a performer capable of delivering all the punch, panache and pathos needed to convey Garland’s essence. The loose time line of memories provides a better understanding of the conflicted, vulnerable, addictive, and absolutely resolute Judy that America came to know. This Judy had an inner, steely core that resonated with the music of her being.
Paulding quickly wraps herself in the cloak of one of America’s most iconic stars, Judy Garland. By the second act, she seems to be channeling the spirit of one of show business’ most memorable performers. Paulding’s range and temperament mesh perfectly for this role. Her empathy and research into Garland’s life become palpable onstage, giving rich depth and voice to her character. What happens onstage makes this one of the top performances by a regional artist in the past decade, and will be a lasting legacy to Paulding’s already storied performance career.
This production expands the original casting from six to nine, making costume changes more efficient. Most of the other cast members play multiple roles, and there are some standout performances supporting the signature role of Garland. As Mickey Rooney, Shawn Jones brings a goofy spunk that was the young Rooney’s hallmark. Kevin Spire breathes a dapper depth into the seldom explored Frank Gumm, Judy’s father. Sue Gerver’s Ethel Gumm flashes the matriarchal control Garland endured. With a no-crap iron-fistedness, Greg Millar embodies all the power of cinematic ruler, Louis B. Mayer. As the acerbic gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper, Sarah Hinzman radiates the power Hopper held with her pen during the golden years of Hollywood. Charlie Reese brings an exploitive wickedness to Sid Luft, Judy’s second husband. Mike Tweeton plays the pivotal role of Garland’s first husband, Vincent Minelli. As young Judy, playing many shared scenes with Paulding “in her mind,” KtMarie Scarcello has perhaps the most difficult role. Although often capturing the physical aspect of her role, her voice falls short of matching Paulding’s during their many pivotal singing interchanges.
The scenic design, by Casey Gradischnig, lends itself nicely to the flashbacks in Judy’s life. The multiple levels, giving a visual separation of Paulding’s primary performing area from the rest of the stage, gives the audience the chance to effectively follow the glimpses into a deeply troubled – and, troubling – past. While Musical Director Philip King brings an enthusiastic energy to the music, the small combo of keyboards, reeds, bass and drums seems pale when trying to match the power of Paulding’s voice. A larger orchestra would have enhanced the production.
All things considered, however, just as Judy Garland’s life was not perfect, any shortcomings are quickly forgiven in the musical magic as Paulding manifests Judy before our very eyes. The mannerisms and persona of this unique American star are grounded in her personal oasis, her music. Some favorites include buoyant delight of “Be a Clown” to the sultry “Stormy Weather” to a show-ending, brimming-with-subtext, “Over the Rainbow.” Be sure to immerse yourself in a world of Judy Garland.