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BAILEY AS GARLAND IS INSPIRATION - By Anthony Tommasini (taken from The Globe)
BOSTON Jim Baileys acclaimed portrayal of Judy Garland
is far more than mere impersonation. And although the cross-dressing
element cant help lending an edge of gender-bending humor to the
show, Baileys 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 hes back at the Charles Playhouse with a new Garland show.
Next week, Baileys Barbra Streisand will debut. The shows, billed
as Two Fabulous Legendary Ladies, will run in alternation
through June 12.
has obsessed over getting Garlands details right. In a skintight,
sequined white dress slit up front to reveal Judys sleek legs,
Bailey re-creates the trademark Garland physique of the early 1960sthat
sort of square-sack torso propped up on stilt legs. All the familiar
nervous tics and twitters are herethe 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. Its poignant to
see his Garland trying so hard to please us.
the triumph of Baileys portrayal is his singing, which is exceptional
on its own terms, as well as being a brilliant re-creation of Garlands.
Hes got the range, the thrust, the rasp, the chesty low tones,
the breathy soft one, the ear buzzing highs. Hes got the Garland
wobble that can take a moment to focus in on the right pitch. Hes
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.
sings a generous program of Garland classics (Over The Rainbow,
Puttin On The Ritz) and songs written after her death
in 1969 (Sondheims Losing My Mind and Im
Still Here) that nevertheless are made for her. Baileys
idea is not to re-create the historical Garland, but to bring her to
life for us today. Theres 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.