End Of The Rainbow

SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

10/11/2007 - 08/12/2007

Production Details

by Peter Quilter
directed by Colin McColl


Ellie Smith has played many of the greatest leading ladies music theatre has to offer. Now, she turns her hand to Judy Garland in Auckland Theatre Company’s sensational tribute to one of the world’s greatest entertainers in End of the Rainbow, onstage at SKYCITY Theatre from November 8.

Auckland born actress, Ellie Smith started her illustrious career on the West End playing Janet in the original Rocky Horror Show at the Kings Theatre. She went on to join the original West End cast of Chicago which established her as one of New Zealand’s most sort after musical theatre entertainers internationally. She received great popular and critical acclaim for her portrayals Edith Piaf, Shirley Valentine, Roxie Hart, Maria Callas and Mary Pickford. Her powerful and deeply moving interpretation of Garland captivated audiences in the sellout show Judy at Downstage.

“Ellie Smith is the nearest we have to big, big musical star” Dominion Post 

Set in 1968 in London’s Ritz Hotel, Peter Quilter’s play End of the Rainbow charts the final months of Garland’s tumultuous life, brilliantly weaving the humour and heart-breaking emotion of Garland’s last days with a selection of her most memorable songs, including C’mon Get Happy, You Made Me Love You, and, of course, Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

Since its 2005 premiere, End of the Rainbow has become a major international entertainment phenomenon, rekindling memories of the Garland fever that swept the world in the 1940s and 50s. Selling out its premiere season in a small Sydney theatre the show returned for a two month run at the Sydney Opera House which sold out 13 weeks before it opened. An invitation to the prestigious Edinburgh Festival quickly followed. Hailed by the critics this high profile festival season had West End theatres begging for the right to present its London premiere season in September this year.

Enthralled by an early performance Auckland Theatre Company’s artistic director Colin McColl immediately set out to secure the New Zealand rights. Auckland Theatre Company is now the only other company in the world given permission to mount a production of End of the Rainbow. At this early stage McColl was confident that the musical talent, acting prowess and irresistible magnetism of Ellie Smith would be the perfect choice for the leading role of Judy Garland. Ellie Smith is joined on stage by Paul Barrett and Edwin Wright.

Playwright Peter Quilter is currently enjoying success on two continents. In addition to End of the Rainbow, his latest play Glorious is currently delighting audiences in London, starring the legendary British actress, Maureen Lipman.

End of the Rainbow plays 8 November – 8 December at SKYCITY Theatre

Previews from Nov 8, 2007

Opens Sat Nov 10, 2007

Performances times:
Tuesday – Wednesday 6.30pm, Thursday – Saturday 8.00pm
Matinee, Sat Nov 24 and Sat Dec 1 at 2.00pm, Sundays 4.00pm 
Tickets: $30 – $54 (booking fees apply) 

Book through Ticketek 09 307 5000 or www.ticketek.co.nz 

Ellie Smith - Judy Garland
Paul Barrett - Anthony Chapman
Edwin Wright - Mickey Deans

With James Jennings, second year student from UNITEC's School of Performing and Screen Arts.

Colin McColl
Musical Director and Arrangements Penny Dodd
Set Design John Parker
Lighting Design Tony Rabbit
Costume Design Rachael Walker
Choreographer Vicky Haughton
Sound Effect Sourcing Jordan Greatbach

Production Manager Mark Gosling
Technical Manager Bonnie Burrill
Senior Stage Manager Aileen Robertson
Assistant Stage Manager Paul Nicoll
Lighting Operator Robert Hunte

Sound Operator Nat Bristow
Wardrobe Supervisor and Dresser Vicki Slow
Follow Spot Operator / Mechanist Josh Hyman
Stage Hands Nick Rowland and Paul Sweeting-Shaw

Flyman, Fire Warden and 2nd Flyman

Properties Master Bec Ehlers
Set Construction 2CONSTRUCT
Costume Construction The Costume Studio

Conducted by Penny Dodd
TRUMPETS: Lex French, Vaughn Roberts, Barrett Hocking
TROMBONES: Dave Bremner, Nick Van Dijk, Gus Brown
WOODWINDS: Alex Nyman, Blair Latham, Colin Hemmingsen, Nils Olsen
PIANO: Charmaine Ford
BASS: Nick Tipping
DRUMS: Lance Phillip
VIOLINS: Vesa-Matti Leppanen, Lyndon Taylor, Yury Gezenstvey, Andrew Thomson, Emma Barron, Kristina Zelinska

The New Zealand Post season

Theatre , Music ,

Energy, flair and failing health: a triumph

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 12th Nov 2007

Since seeing The New Zealand Post season of End of the Rainbow on Friday night, I’ve had Garland’s infectious hit, ‘Get Happy’ buzzing round and round in my head. I’ve also googled "Judy Garland" far too often. In 3 seconds, (despite the fact that I seem to live in a broadband black hole), my mac finds 1.72 million hits. She’s addictive.

Unlike many of today’s over night ‘stars’ and tabloid celebrities, (some famous just for being famous), this diminutive Hollywood icon paid her dues over and over and over again, starting with her 1924 stage debut at her father’s theatre, singing Jingle Bells at the age of 2. During her illustrious career, she won kudos, Academy Awards and the hearts of millions, when at the age of 16; she sang what was to become her signature tune, Over the Rainbow, as Dorothy in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz.

16 was also her approximate age when MGM’s studio doctor perfected the dosage and mix of ‘uppers’ and ‘downers’, prescribed to Garland, presumably under her and her mother’s misconception that they were in her best interests to take, so that the producers could keep Garland tuned to their gruelling filming schedule and their perception of a young woman’s ideal weight.

By aged 20, her life was awash in legally prescribed drugs – she was addicted to a daily cocktail: appetite suppressing amphetamines, pills to make her sleep, pills to keep her awake… Seconal, barbiturates…. She compounded the mix by washing it all down with alcohol. By the time she died aged 47 of an accidental overdose, she was taking Valium and 20 Ritalin tables a day.

Peter Quilter’s frank yet compelling script, set in 1968, during Garland’s "Talk of the Town" season in London, combined with Ellie Smith’s brilliant performance and director Colin McColl’s strong supporting cast, capture the demise and agony of these last years of Garland’s manufactured life, driven by a need for performance and prescription drugs, perfectly.

Ellie Smith delivers the roller coaster ride that the role demands, with devastating accuracy. She shows us a Garland that could be up and witty, appearing bullet proof and on top of her game at times. Yet throughout her performance, she gives a sense that underneath the façade, the Diva is worn out, spent and stuffed – she is a vulnerable, lost drug addict.

Because Quilter serves up Garland’s contradictions- her yearning for a normal life thwarted by her need to perform; her love of the limelight even when some nights before stepping on stage she was a petrified bag of nerves and self doubt – often using Garland as her own narrator, it makes the play profoundly human. When she simply states, "I can’t do this" and "I just can’t stop" while lying in a heap of bile, the blunt honesty of this broken soul and the ugly affects of the demons that put her there, hit home. You cannot help but be drawn into Judy Garland’s story.

Edwin Wright, playing Mickey Deans, gives an intelligent performance. We are never quite sure if his motivations are in Garland’s best interests, or his own. You’re left with the impression that he feels great pity for her, but not unconditional love.

Similarly, actor and musician Paul Barrett, playing Garland’s Musical Director and pianist Anthony Chapman, shows his adoration of Garland, perfectly. Even in a deliciously awkward scene, in which he proclaims love for Garland, it is clear that he, like so many, idolises the star, rather than loves the woman.

Wright and Barrett strike up an excellent rapport, as their characters form an unlikely, albeit brief alliance, against the addict’s manipulation, volatility and bad behaviour. However, as the initial mistrust and accusations return and the bond is lost, both actors show subtle, expert craft.

Barrett and Smith are at ease, and exude effortless comic timing during an early scene, rehearsing at the piano. Comfortable and relaxed as musician and singer, and enjoying witty banter, Quilter sets up a false hope here, and his script is full of hilarity and flippancy. He reminds us that Garland was insightful, charming and smart. Considering the time, as a woman, she was a groundbreaking comedienne and raconteur. For a while you forget Garland is a train wreck about to unfold.

McColl’s creative team are a triumph.

John Parker’s set, a Hotel suite, complete with grand piano, characterises the place and period very well. Because it is positioned quite far downstage, and on a rake, he has achieved the almost impossible: he has made the Skycity Theatre feel intimate. Parker’s flow of curtains and half curtains, and the authentic dropping of one of the lighting bars at the end of a "Talk Of The Town" concert, means the audience seamlessly travel from back stage, side of stage, to the auditorium and back again, giving us a clear appreciation of how different Garland’s life was on the other side of the cloth.

Musical Director and arranger Penny Dodd’s sublime work is realised through pre recorded tracks, featuring the excellent musicianship of 19 players, who bring to life some of Garland’s most loved tracks in a way that compliments Quilter’s story, Garland’s style and Smith’s vocal prowess through a knowledgeable blend of authenticity and reinterpretation. For example, Dodd’s bold end to Over The Rainbow denotes Garland’s emptiness rather than hope. By contrast, Swanee is a ripper, true to the original, and Smith is simply on fire.

Fans of Garland’s musical performances will not be disappointed, as Dodd’s crowd pleasing medley of still more of her hits, is seamlessly arranged and sung with plenty of energy and flair by Smith.

While Dodd’s guidance has Smith in fine voice for this production, the actress gives her Garland a vulnerable glissando in slower, more intimate numbers, which further highlights Garland’s failing health.

Lighting design by Tony Rabbit is rich in colour, lush, beautiful and at times seems to evoke the promised land at the end of the rainbow. By contrast, as Smith spills her guts in The Man That Got Away, Rabbit throws her into blue light and a melancholy mood. He makes another clear statement near the end of the play, as a broken Garland crawls on her knees, then slowly picks herself up, bashes into the curtain, then staggers around, bewildered. Rabbit hits the frail figure in a single blinding white spotlight: an interrogating reminder that her show must go on.

Costume designer Rachael Walker drapes Smith in various fabulous sequined sparkly numbers, and the men look suitably chic for the 60’s. But her genius touches are first, Anthony’s long hair and thick glasses, and second, the razzle-dazzle of Get Happy, with the men decked out in tails (including James Jennings, who plays a small role as a Hotel worker), framing Smith, dressed in a cute tailored jacket.

Choreographed by Vicky Haughton and with committed performances from all, McColl uses the show-stopping Get Happy as a post curtain-call coda to ensure the night ends on an upper.

Later my mind wandered to Amy Winehouse and I wondered if, half a century on, today’s entertainment industry is any wiser than Garland’s.

FOOTNOTE – Just to reiterate the obvious for the benefit of the woman who I would name and shame if I knew who she was: Lady – It is not just polite, courteous, standard practice and etiquette to turn your cellphone or pager off when you enter a theatre, it is essential. Put yourself in Ellie Smith’s shoes: One of her most intimate scenes on Friday night was ruined by your cellphone. What made it so unforgivable was that it was the second time your phone had gone off. If you hadn’t made such a hasty exit at the end of the play, there would’ve been a bunch of us lining up to throttle you in the foyer.   


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo