End of the Rainbow opened tonight, April 2, at the Belasco Theatre. The show features Michael Cumpsty, Tom Pelphrey and Jay Russell along with Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland in Peter Quilter's acclaimed, directed by Terry Johnson.
The setting is December 1968, and Judy Garland is about to make her comeback... again.
How'd it fair with the critics? Let's find out...
Ben Brantley, NY Times: As befits a play about Judy Garland, a woman known for liberally mixing her pills, Peter Quilter’s “End of the Rainbow” is a jolting upper and downer at the same time. After watching Tracie Bennett’s electrifying interpretation of Garland in the intense production that opened on Monday night at the Belasco Theater, you feel exhilarated and exhausted, equally ready to dance down the street and crawl under a rock.....Ms. Bennett seems to keep every chapter of that history, and the disjunctive reality it created, alive in her performance. Foul-mouthed, flirtatious, hypersexual, childlike (though never innocent), unedited, manipulative and supremely self-conscious: Ms. Bennett’s Garland is all these things as she makes love and war with Mickey and Anthony.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Both those themes are hardly touched, and some may feel this biography needs more, but "End of the Rainbow" never intends itself to be anything but a sketch of a frail older woman falling to her demons. It's hard to watch, but even harder not to watch. That's completely because of Bennett, a veteran of the English stage, but a newcomer here. That should change quickly. At one preview, audience members shot up from their seats and coaxed one more number from Bennett, begging for one more moment, just one more, please, with Judy. There can be no better compliment.
Terry Teachout, The Wall Street Journal: Tracie Bennett can sing like Judy Garland, more or less, and if you have any interest in hearing her do so, go see Peter Quilter's "End of the Rainbow," a play about the last pathetic months of the drug-sodden Garland's life, in which Ms. Bennett gives what amounts to a miniconcert of Judy's Greatest Hits. Be forewarned, however, that Mr. Quilter's script is heavy on bitchy one-liners and light on insight, and that Ms. Bennett's portrayal of Garland-at-the-End-of-Her-Rope is a heavily shellacked impersonation that slops over into shameless caricature.
David Rooney, Reuters/Hollywood Reporter: In a full-throttle performance that holds nothing back, Tracie Bennett channels an off-the-rails Judy Garland near the completion of her downward spiral, giving End of the Rainbow a fiercely dynamic center. But there’s a gulf between the vehicle and the vulnerable human being that the actress rarely traverses in this bio-drama with songs, thanks to writing by Peter Quilter that hits every obvious note except the pathos, and to Terry Johnson’s unrelentingly emphatic direction. ... A gutsy performance trapped in a one-note play that gives us the broad outline of the tragic star but lacks the insight to penetrate her heart.
Adam Feldman, TimeOut NY: That Bennett performs this show eight times a week is a marvel indeed; seeing it just once kind of wore me out.
Linda Winer, Newsday: The British actress is so good that, for someone not a serious Judy devotee or somebody who gets kicks from watching train wrecks, she is really, really hard to be around.
No doubt, this is not the response desired by producers of "End of the Rainbow," the pseudo-biographical play-with-music that transferred from London with understandable raves for Bennett.
David Sheward, Backstage: There are productions that exist solely to feature a spectacular star. This is one of them. Rush to the Belasco to catch Bennett and revel in her—and Garland’s—glory.
Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer: Somewhere over the rainbow, Judy Garland never spotted her pot of gold. But a British actress named Tracie Bennett found hers - in the person of Judy. She is sensational in the erratic Broadway show End of the Rainbow, about Garland's last attempt at a comeback, which opened Monday night.