STAGE: A Star is Born: The Rise and Fall of Judy Garland
– Hilton Arts Festival at Hilton College at 6pm tomorrow (Friday, Sept 13) and 2pm on Saturday (Sept 14).
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
JUDY Garland’s 45-year career began at the age of two-and-a-half. By the time the singer-actress-dancer was 13 she had signed her first movie contract. When she was 17, the classic The Wizard of Oz had earned her an honorary Oscar.
By 47 the legendary star and mother of Liza Minnelli was found in a London bathroom, dead from an accidental overdose, having been through dramatic career highs and lows, five husbands and a long battle with booze, alcohol and depression.
How one of Hollywood’s treasures rose to stardom then started to lose her twinkle lies in a selection of carefully considered songs and easy-flowing dialogue – interesting, informative and sometimes playful – that is delivered with much panache by charming redhead Kerry Hiles, an East London-based singer-actress.
If the name rings a bell locally, if should. Kerry is the big sis of award-winning Durban actor Bryan Hiles; was a singer and bassist at the now-defunct Barnyard Theatre at Gateway; starred as teenager Jacqui Kruger on SABC3’s Isidingo from 2000 to 2002; and continues to play many corporate and public gigs.
She also spends time producing yoghurt and cheese on her smallholding in East London, but that is another story (see our interview here: https://wp.me/p8dL0W-4Tz).
A Star is Born, which had two performances at the Rhumbelow Theatre at Tina’s Hotel in Kloof this week, has two more performances at this weekend’s Hilton Arts Festival at Hilton College. Good news is that it has also been booked for performances early in the new year at the Rhumbelow Theatre in Umbilo, Durban.
The show has Kerry exuding great charisma and showcasing a wonderful voice that breathes new life into forgotten favourites and lesser-known numbers associated with Garland, who appeared in more than two dozen films and, at the age of 39, became the youngest and first female recipient of the Cecil B DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the film industry.
Fourteen songs feature in the show, an hour-long delight with no interval, in which Kerry is deftly backed by bearded Durban pianist Luke Holder. He is seated at a black baby grand piano on a stage otherwise bare but for three easels, each with a blow-up, monochrome photo of Garland: as a teenager, in her prime and in later years.
There is never a lull as the production, under the direction of Amanda Bothma, moves at a breezy pace and has Kerry tackling songs seldom heard these days. They are songs cleverly chosen, in many cases, to add extra commentary to the dialogue.
Karry handles it all with aplomb – morphing effortlessly from more emotive moments to the playfulness of such toe-tappers as the opening That’s Entertainment, The Trolley Song (from Easter Parade), I Got Rhythm (from Girl Crazy) and the lesser-known In Between (from Garland’s first appearance with Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy series, Love Finds Andy Hardy) and Hoe Down (from Babes on Broadway).
Among slower, heartfelt moments are such classics as The Man That Got Away, A Foggy Day (in London Town), You Made Me Love You (the song a young Garland sang to screen idol Clark Gable at a big birthday bash); and, of course, the song most associated with Garland, Over the Rainbow, which closes the show. Also on the programme are Zing! Went The Strings of My Heart, How About You, Meet Me in St Louis, A Couple of Swells and If You Feel Like Singing, Sing.
There is little wonder that A Star is Born: The Rise and Fall of Judy Garland received a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the recent National Arts Festival. It is a real treat, a wonderful blast of nostalgia and a must for lovers of show tunes, and one can only hope we see a lot more of Kerry.
Note that there is only one more performance in Durban of A Star is Born: The Rise and Fall of Judy Garland , at Kloof’s Tina’s Hotel at 8pm tonight (Thursday, September 12). Tickets cost R150 (and only R100 each if you can fill a table of eight). Phone Roland at 082 499 8636.
Final performances this week are the two performances at this weekend’s Hilton Arts Festival at Hilton College. Those shows are scheduled for 6pm tomorrow (Friday, September 13) and 2pm on Saturday (September 14). For bookings and more details phone (033) 383 0126.