The official opening night of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival may still be to come, but the stars were out in force for the opening night of the State Theatre Company’s glittering and gritty performance of End of the Rainbow on Tuesday night.
Drawing an immense crowd including Academy Award-nominated director Scott Hicks and Cabaret Festival Artistic Director Julia Zemiro there was barely a spare seat to be seen in the well-used and much loved Royalty Theatre. The masses had descended upon Adelaide to witness the tale of Judy Garland’s renowned last days at The Ritz Hotel, London, while she primed for a five-week run of shows at the Talk of the Town nightclub.
With a few piano chords of Over the Rainbow played by Anthony Chapman (Stephen Sheehan) signalling the commencement of the performance, the stage lit up as the voices of Garland (Helen Dallimore) and Mickey Deans (Nic English) are heard off in the distance. They eventually enter into their room at The Ritz Carlton and into our lives, at least for two hours of it.
Written by Peter Quilter, End of the Rainbow dives straight into Garland’s tumultuous world. Instead of highlighting her formative years we are introduced to fading star. We are introduced to a product of over thirty years of drug and alcohol abuse. We are introduced to someone in a co-dependant and highly manipulative relationship about to embark on her fifth (and final) marriage.
Dallimore shines as Garland. From her overall appearance, her vocal sensibilities and the tiniest of mannerisms Dallimore brings an authenticity to the iconic vaudevillian that extends beyond being just an impersonation. Her ability to traverse between Garland the muddled little girl and Garland the performer is as seamless as The Ritz Carlton converting into the Talk of the Town nightclub in the blink of an eye. Dallimore successfully takes you on an emotive journey; a downward spiral into Garland’s emotional darkness and the end of her life.
English captures Deans’ ambiguity and ever-changing intentions towards Garland with subtlety. Deans love for Garland is abundantly evident, but is that love bore from genuineness or a manipulation to exploit? Throughout the performance, it is difficult to not switch from feeling fond of Deans to disliking him. Sheehan, on the other hand, charmingly maintains Chapman’s serenity, level-headedness and dry wit. His performance is endearing as it captures the deep love and admiration between Chapman and Garland. The scenes with Sheehan and Dallimore are particularly delightful given their palpable chemistry.
Elena Carapetis’ directorial debut should be lauded. With the sophistication of a seasoned director, she balances the dramatic with the comedic while delicately building the overall intensity towards the inevitable conclusion. Assisted by the sublime cast and on-stage musical accompaniment Carapetis elevates Quilter’s writing to create a production that is engaging and fortified with profound sentimentality.
End of the Rainbow does not paint Garland in a good light, but it does highlight the intricate complexities and tragedy that encapsulated her life. It is a magnificent trip back in time and a must see of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
Live Review By Anita Kertes
For show information and tickets to End of the Rainbow head to the Adelaide Cabaret Festival website.