Home | About Jim | Women in Jim's Life | A Conversation with Jim | Latest CD
Latest Video | Jim's Celebrity Friends | In the News | The Many Faces of Jim | Contact Us

Jim as Judy GarlandBAILEY AS GARLAND IS INSPIRATION - By Anthony Tommasini (taken from The Globe)

BOSTON — Jim Bailey’s acclaimed portrayal of Judy Garland is far more than mere impersonation. And although the cross-dressing element can’t help lending an edge of gender-bending humor to the show, Bailey’s portrayal has little in common with campy male drag. He is so in awe of his subject that he simply (and uncannily) becomes her. Watching Bailey as Garland is like watching Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain or Robert Morse as Truman Capote or Julie Harris as Emily Dickinson. His work is in that class. Bailey has brought Garland to Boston before. Now he’s back at the Charles Playhouse with a new Garland show. Next week, Bailey’s Barbra Streisand will debut. The shows, billed as “Two Fabulous Legendary Ladies,” will run in alternation through June 12.

     Bailey has obsessed over getting Garland’s details right. In a skintight, sequined white dress slit up front to reveal Judy’s sleek legs, Bailey re-creates the trademark Garland physique of the early 1960’s—that sort of square-sack torso propped up on stilt legs. All the familiar nervous tics and twitters are here—the left hand that fidgets has a life of its own, the fingers that absent-mindedly stroke her face or fuss with her hair. Judy moves about the stage with the jitters, trying out a few dance steps, constantly getting entangled in the microphone cord. But, Bailey never plays this for laughs. It’s poignant to see his Garland trying so hard to please us.

     However, the triumph of Bailey’s portrayal is his singing, which is exceptional on its own terms, as well as being a brilliant re-creation of Garland’s. He’s got the range, the thrust, the rasp, the chesty low tones, the breathy soft one, the ear buzzing highs. He’s got the Garland wobble that can take a moment to focus in on the right pitch. He’s got the sometimes slurpy diction (“Chicager, Chicagah, that wondaful town”), the words that trail off (“Zing! Went the strin . . . of my heart). Most importantly, he has emotional depth without going over the deep end. When Judy sings of “sleepless nights,” her voice crackles, her eyes cloud and you know she means it.

     Bailey sings a generous program of Garland classics (“Over The Rainbow,” “Puttin’ On The Ritz”) and songs written after her death in 1969 (Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind” and “I’m Still Here”) that nevertheless are made for her. Bailey’s idea is not to re-create the historical Garland, but to bring her to life for us today. There’s also a rambling outrageously un-PC monologue about filming “The Wizard Of Oz” in which Judy remembers all those horny, boozing Munchkin dwarfs that is vintage Garland. The seven piece band, led by musical director and pianist Sean Gough, took some time to find its groove. Once it did, the music-making was snappy.

     But nothing could have undermined Bailey’s Garland. Bailey, who has had operatic vocal training, has played diverse roles on stage and television. But his devotion to Garland appears to liberate, not to limit him. At the end of the show, when Judy seemed almost disoriented by the vociferous standing ovation from her ardent fans, it was almost unbearably touching.

Copyright 2005 Jim Bailey. All rights reserved.