There have been many incarnations of Judy Garland’s life story, but Judy isn’t happy with any of them and she is back from beyond the grave to set the record straight.
Bernadette Meenach’s cabaret is conceptually interesting. It was refreshing to see the usual tale of Garland’s journey from child star to drugs and tragedy refuted. After all, can someone’s existence be so conveniently summed up? Meenach points out that while Garland had more than her fair share of rain, there was plenty of rainbow in her life too. To ignore that is to oversimplify a complex person.
Meenach has a lovely voice, and she effectively mimicked Garland’s distinctive, velvet gravel and intonation. Patrick Dwyer played various roles, and his dancing and singing were a good blend with Meenach’s performance (their vaudevillian rendition of ‘We’re a Couple of Swells’ was most enjoyable). The show wove between anecdotes and musical numbers smoothly. It had moments of humour, others of insight, and an overall warmth that perhaps would have been better served in a smaller, more intimate venue.
While it may not change your perceptions of Judy, it may inspire you to question how much to trust the media’s portrayal of celebrities, and to consider how you want to be remembered. Judy Strikes Back is a good night of well-executed entertainment that offers a different, uplifting perspective to the familiar Garland legend.