Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of Over the River and Through the Woods
Angela Ingersoll has portrayed Garland in several productions of the stage show End of the Rainbow, which was the basis for the Judy film, and she has created a stage show entitled Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland that features more than 20 of Garland's classic songs and stories of her life. With Ingersoll's exceptional vocal abilities (and a terrific six-piece orchestra) beautifully paying homage to Garland's signature singing style, it's a wonderful tribute to this exceptional performer. Ingersoll received an Emmy nomination for the 2018 filmed version of this show, which aired on PBS, and has brought the concert to The Phoenix Theatre Company's outdoor concert stage for a two-week run through February 7th.
Ingersoll has clearly spent countless hours not only appearing as Garland in End of the Rainbow but also researching her life and she brings that dedication and devotion to ensure this concert is a fairly thorough document of Judy's life. While some of Garland's lowest moments are included, Ingersoll also makes sure the focus of the piece is on the lasting legacy of Garland and the sheer amount of joy her film, stage, and recording performances have given to so many fans over the years.
Ingersoll has an excellent singing voice and she manages to depict with pinpoint clarity many of Garland's signature vocal styles, from her deep vibrato to the clear intonation, bright notes, and colorful tones she delivered on all of her songs. With her petite frame and short, dark hair, Ingersoll even looks fairly similar to Garland. Fortunately, it's a positive decision that Ingersoll doesn't attempt to do a complete impersonation of Garland or, worse, a caricature. By having Ingersoll talk about Garland while singing many of her most famous songs and telling us stories and facts about Garland's life, but not attempt to "be" Judy herself, it allows Garland fans in the audience to see themselves reflected through Ingersoll's eyes and have a shared experience with her sincere devotion to this famous woman as mutual fans of Judy. That decision creates a bond and a stronger connection from the audience to both Garland and Ingersoll. And while there is sadness present from hearing of Judy's grief and the many demons she battled, by presenting it this way and not have it be a complete impersonation, it is sad but not depressing and even somewhat uplifting, especially in how Ingersoll incorporates her own personal stories about her lifelong love for Garland into the show.
The show presents just about every song that fans associate with Garland, from "Smile" to "The Boy Next Door," plus medleys of songs that feature "I Got Rhythm," "Singin' in the Rain," "You Made Me Love You," "For Me and My Gal," and "The Trolley Song." Ingersoll has crafted the show in a fairly straightforward chronological order, starting with tales of Judy and her sisters appearing in vaudeville as the Gumm sisters ("After You've Gone") to Judy's radio appearance to document getting her big break at MGM ("Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart") and her troubling times at MGM after being put on a prescription pill regime that resulted in her contract being terminated after the film Summer Stock (a sizzling version of "Get Happy" is a major highlight of the first half of the concert).
Several of Judy's husbands are mentioned, including Sid Luft who, with Garland, was behind her comeback film A Star is Born. A dazzling rendition of "The Man That Got Away" from that film ends the first half of the show before Ingersoll makes a fun on-stage costume change for the second half while telling personal stories of how she was cast in an off-stage role in The Wizard of Oz when she was young and growing up in Indianapolis, to later being cast as Dorothy where she was an adult in a production in which she met her husband, who was cast as the Tin Man.
"Born in a Trunk," "When You're Smiling," and an excellent, driving version of "Come Rain or Come Shine" follow, along with a moving take on "Stormy Weather" as Ingersoll talks about how, like Judy, she also had some problems with her relationship with her mother. Ingersoll had the chance to work with Judy's son Joey Luft on a concert about his mother, and her performance of "As Long as He Needs Me" is quite moving. She says it was a song Joey said he loved to hear his mother sing and that, instead of it being a song sung by a woman to her lover, his mother would sing it as a song from a mother to her child. "Make Someone Happy," "That's Entertainment," and a glorious and heartfelt version of "Over the Rainbow" end the show before an upbeat encore of "Chicago."
With passionate stories and soaring vocals, Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland celebrates this famous woman in style and song.
The Phoenix Theatre Company has created a beautiful outdoor venue in the large courtyard of the Central United Methodist Church, which is located directly on the north side of Phoenix Theatre's parking lot. With socially distanced seating, clear sound, warm lighting, and perfect sidelines, it is a perfect venue to enjoy theatre in a safe way.
Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland runs through February 7, 2021, at The Phoenix Theatre Company's outdoor stage at Central United Methodist Church, on the north side of the Phoenix Theatre's parking lot, 100 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix AZ. Tickets can be purchased at phoenixtheatre.com or by calling 602-254-2151
Creator: Angela Ingersoll