'End of the Rainbow' captures Judy Garland's final months

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

January 23, 2014

WAUKESHA - The Milwaukee Rep’s production of Peter Quilter’s “End of the Rainbow” captures the turbulence, the drama, the anguish and the power of Judy Garland’s career. 

Despite her being pushed into show biz at the age of 2 by an ambitious mother, strictly controlled by MGM for years, having five failed marriages and many short-lived affairs, severe addictions to alcohol, barbiturates and amphetamines and being prone to depression and anxiety, she had an incredibly successful career as a singer and actor. 

She probably lived many lives in her one short one, dying from an accidental barbiturate overdose at the age of 47.

It is heart-wrenching and thrilling to watch Hollis Resnik channel the spirit and talent of this small, incredibly talented woman with the big voice and the unique styling. The play covers the last few months of her life as she is struggling to complete a series of concerts in London. She has just hooked up with a young disc jockey named Mickey Deans, whom she would later marry. Both he, along with an old friend-accompanist Anthony, try to keep Judy on track to complete her gig. It is evident that both men are concerned about her failing health and mounting debts, but Anthony’s love is less self-serving than Mickey’s. 

Thomas J. Cox gives a very touching performance as Anthony, her gay friend, and Nicholas Harazin’s portrayal as Mickey provides a sharp contrast to Anthony’s purer devotion. We grow to like Anthony a lot more than her latest ill-chosen mate Mickey.

Resnik has captured Garland’s body language and vocal stylings to a T. So much of our individuality comes through in our gestures, movements and facial expressions, and Resnik must have spent many hours studying Garland to be able to so strikingly fashion this role. It is absolutely stunning to witness Garland’s return through this woman’s daunting talent.

The set (Dan Conway), the musical direction (Dan Kazemi), the costuming (Holly Payne) all create an authentic span of time and place. 

In the many songs Resnik renders, the most moving is “The Man That Got Away” and the most creative stylistically is “Come Rain or Come Shine.” Her final number, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” is a fitting close to a very beautiful but sad story.  

The lighting effects (Ryan Bertelson) enhance the mood and leave an audience stunned into silence before the rousing standing ovation.   

Directed by Mark Clements, it’s a must-see if you like Judy Garland, and millions of fans still do.  

“End of the Rainbow” runs through Feb. 9 at the Quadracci Powerhouse, 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. For show times and tickets, call 414-224-9490 or visit their website at