I cannot say that I have ever once put on a Judy Garland CD or tasked Spotify with building a playlist, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a film except The Wizard of Oz.
And yet I found A Star Is Born – The Rise and Fall of Judy Garland fascinating and the singing superb.
I’d heard of 1954’s A Star is Born, but to complete my admission of my Garland ignorance, I had no idea that Liza Minnelli is her daughter!
I booked into The Rise and Fall of Judy Garland because I’ve been to a few of these musical educational pieces at TheSpace / Royal College in previous years, and they’ve always been excellent. A rival company calls them show-umentaries, or something like that. The Rise and Fall of Judy Garland didn’t disappoint but hadn’t been favoured with one of those great lecture halls, and we made do with chairs around a series of Judy Garland pictures. A curtain tried its best to block out the chat babble from outside.
What to expect
There is live music with our hostess Kerry Hiles, singing wonderfully and narrating an expertly abridged version of Garland’s life. Germaine Gamiet accompanies the piano. It felts high class and approachable together.
The format is effective; a song and then a story snippet, repeat. Kerry Hiles nails this approach, being sincere, dramatic, empathic and disappointed as required.
You will get all those emotions in this story. Garland dies shortly after her wedding, battled through a troubled life, and was hooked on pills, thanks to her mother, by age 10.
Let’s call these reveals “Judy Garland fact bombs”. After each fact bomb, we get a song.
For example, Judy Garland was cabled for a microphone and dressed in a feather boa while in bed at the maternity hospital to give an Oscar speech.
Fact bomb: She didn’t win.
Song. (and back to the fact bomb step)
The format works well because the audience can attach more emotions and context to each performance.
Vibe and Performance
Kerry Hiles and Germaine Gamiet are great. Having so much noise filter in from the other side of the curtain was a little disappointing. That said, it was less noticeable by the end of the show.
I cannot fault the performance but imagine how it might have been in one of TheSpace’s better venues with a full band.
Confidently, but with no authority, I’ll opine that proper Judy Garland fans will rate the show highly.
The show is an entertaining way to discover (or recap) the outstanding life of the Queen of Comebacks. As I demonstrate, you don’t need to know anything about Judy Garland to appreciate A Star Is Born – The Rise and Fall of Judy Garland.