Beyond the Rainbow: The Judy Garland Musical at Farmers Alley Theatre

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Beyond the Rainbow, naturally, is a song-based glimpse into Judy Garland’s life - her turmoil, struggles, loves, and addictions. It is thoughtful, clever, and, at times, even comical. To say that this is the most unique, insightful musical would be spot on. There is truly nothing like it.

In Beyond the Rainbow, Garland’s life is split into three main parts. The singing styles for each era of her life were very realistic for how the voice changes, and grows. The show is musically narrated by an older (and wiser) Judy, based on Garland’s legendary 1961 Carnegie Hall show. 

Currently running at Kalamazoo’s Farmers Alley Theatre (information and dates below), this is one musical you won’t want to miss. 

Beyond the Rainbow: The Judy Garland Musical at Farmer’s Alley Theatre. Photo courtesy and copyright Becky Klose

Off the bat, I struck up a conversation with a classmate of mine about the set - how beautiful the silver gray wallpaper looked, and how it complemented the simplicity of the few items on stage. It had a strange glow of glamour that was exemplified by the brightly colored lights, timed perfectly to each theatrical moment, and artfully placed in certain scenes to suggest meanings we might not thought of otherwise. 

It only got better from there. 

This musical offers a personal look at Garland’s life, the people surrounding her, and how people act in search of fame and fortune. With incredible actors, Garland’s life seemed to pop off the stage - right into our hearts. 

Speaking of the acting, since Farmer’s Alley is a smaller stage, it’s easy to see minor details from the amazing actors…everything from the suggestion of a smirk to a shady wink. I cannot stress enough how great this is for a new actor, such as myself, to see. I was inspired by these details, and I can see how others could similarly view this as a masterpiece of acting – it definitely made me want to work harder at my craft.

Annie Yokom. Beyond the Rainbow: The Judy Garland Musical at Farmer’s Alley Theatre. Photo courtesy and copyright Becky Klose

Of all the excellent cast members, three actresses really stood out – young, middle, and older Judy. Carly Koch, as young Judy, had a passionate flair for her role. As an actor, it could definitely be difficult to portray the start of someone’s career, and then blend yourself seamlessly into the other two actors along the timeline, and she did a fantastic job of that. 

Chicago actress and singer Annie Yokom portrayed the main parts of Judy’s life powerfully. In her own way, she put a bit of her personality into her Judy, to great effect. We forgot the actor, and truly saw Judy, as she went through many hardships in her life. 

Annie Yokom. Beyond the Rainbow: The Judy Garland Musical at Farmer’s Alley Theatre. Photo courtesy and copyright Becky Klose

Ivey Award-winning Jody Briskey, who originated the role of “Garland” in the world premiere of Beyond the Rainbow at the St. Paul Minnesota History Theatre, narrated the musical as Garland, reflecting on her life via song. In this role, she told the entire story of her life through the emotions she expressed. We often found ourselves looking directly to her if we wanted more context to the scene playing out in front of us. I’ve never seen anything like it – this was a compelling, fascinating look at the essence of humanity through one person’s emotions.

Jody Briskey. Beyond the Rainbow: The Judy Garland Musical at Farmer’s Alley Theatre. Photo courtesy and copyright Becky Klose

We were lucky enough to talk with two members of the production, young Judy actor Carly Koch, and director Kathy Mulay. Here’s what they had to say...

WE: How did you develop your singing style, for young Judy?

CK: It really meant a lot to me to try to look and sound like Judy Garland. I worked hard by taking the time to really listen to Judy and watch her videos. I also was lucky to have a great director who kept pushing me and I had two amazing actresses (Jody and Annie) who could also give me tips and pointers and advice on how to sound even more like Judy. I was really lucky to have these wonderful women helping me.

Carly Koch in Beyond the Rainbow: The Judy Garland Musical at Farmer’s Alley Theatre. Photo courtesy and copyright Becky Klose

WE: What led you to want to direct this show? What were some of the challenges?

KM: I heard that they were doing a production of a show about Judy Garland called END OF THE RAINBOW in Chicago. It intrigued me to have a show developed around this American Icon, so we went to see it. It was a powerful production, but one that focused on the end of Garland's life. It was ugly and very unappealing to watch drunken, drugged, and angry Judy ripe up the stage. So, I began looking for another version. I found the less performed BEYOND THE RAINBOW that focused on her Carnegie Hall performance. This piece has more sympathy for Judy and focused on the events and people who shaped her life.

The most difficult challenge, of course, was finding two women who had the essence of Judy Garland both physically and vocally. Also challenging was "how" to tell the story so that the audience could move forward with the facts and events at the speed in which the script moves forward. Thus, I expanded those playing her ages to 4 instead of two, and created the slide show as a tribute to the star.

 

I left the show with more questions than answers, regarding Garland. We think we know someone, and that can be turned over so quickly when we learn some of the realities of their life. With social media, we get a close insight into peoples’ lives so easily (whether or not it is actually true) that it is hard to imagine a world without such instant access to our favorite celebrities. Such is the case with Garland, whom most know only as the familiar and beloved Dorothy, in Wizard of Oz. There's so much more to her than we could ever know.

 

BEYOND THE RAINBOW: The Judy Garland Musical runs September 28th through October 14th at 221 Farmers Alley in downtown Kalamazoo. Due to popular demand, an additional matinee has been added at 2pm next Saturday, October 13th. Tickets are $37 on Fri/Sat/Sun and $32 on Thursdays.  Seniors 65 and above receive $2 off per ticket and student tickets are $15.  Reservations can be made by calling the Box Office at (269) 343-2727 or visiting www.farmersalleytheatre.com.

Photos courtesy and copyright Becky Klose

 

 

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