Nottingham Playhouse, 7th February 2014. Evening performance.
‘My Judy Garland Life’ was my first experience of a production depicting a famous icon on stage. It did not disappoint. The production tells the story of Susie, a young girl ‘growing up under Garland’s spell’ and it is a charming look at how impressionable youngsters lean on their idols for support and inspiration as they navigate the course of their formative years. With Judy as conscience and inspiration, Susie finds her dreams coming true- donning identical costumes, she joins Garland in her show-stopping performances and conjures up a lesser envisioned version of Garland; guiding light and confidante. Focusing on the more pleasant aspects and joys of Garland’s life rather than the overshadowing misery in her later years, this was an uplifting production telling the sweet story of a fan’s unwavering admiration.
Unfortunately, my memory is cloudy in terms of remembering much detail other than the central role of Judy (and I assume this is because of the impressiveness of Sally Ann Triplett’s performance). I do however, definitely remember being very impressed with the performance as a whole. Faye Elvin was an endearing Susie and her reliance on make-believe at uncertain times was very relatable; as was the sweet, immature hero-worship of a great talent. The production design was clever, managing to combine Hollywood with domesticity and every day shabbiness with great economy and style- and I loved the show reel theme. I do also remember the production making great use of multi-media aspects, a recurring reminder of the star-struck premise; Garland was the Queen of the screen of course, so it seemed fitting. Likewise, I applaud the live band choice; a fitting touch for a show featuring this great songstress.
For me, watching Sally Ann Triplett, in certain moments, was like being given the impossible opportunity to watch THE Judy Garland have a laugh and a song right there in front of us; she really was that convincing, particularly in the card game scene. I didn’t think it was possible of course but then there she was on stage, perfectly embodying those signature moves and vocal aerobics. I was genuinely blown away at her ability to channel both the voice and the character of such an inimitable woman; if a non-fanatical appreciator of Garland had closed their eyes during one of those signature songs, they may well have been convinced of genuine authenticity. I’m not saying that it was a faultless imitation from start to finish, as Triplett did of course put her own spin on the songs. However, when she was evidently trying to recreate, she managed to pull it off beautifully.
Based on Susie Boyt’s book of the same title, I think Amanda Whittington did a phenomenal job with this adaptation of ‘My Judy Garland Life’. Surprisingly for me, she managed to surpass the brilliance of ‘Be My Baby’ which is a much loved favourite of mine. Most of all, I distinctly remember being touched by the idea that we were, along with Susie the star struck girl, watching a more authentic, un-spot-lit version of Judy Garland. A charismatically entertaining but somehow accessible Judy Garland. It’s amazing what a young imagination can create out of fanaticism, and what a refreshing (albeit fictional) insight into the human side of the super star. Would I recommend? Absolutely. Would I see it again? For sure, kid- and if the duo would be so kind as to create a ‘My Barbra Streisand Life’, I’d be at the front of that line, too.