When Lee Marlow's acting coach requested a cold reading of The Property Known as Garland, she jumped to the podium, script in hand. One doesn't normally drag their feet or refuse a director's request, especially if that director happens to be Burt Reynolds. Marlow read it with grace and ease; the words tripping off her lips and the content coming from her heart. She later said of the read that,
"It. Felt. Wonderful!"
The role of Judy Garland appeared to be tailored-made for Marlow. A perfect fit, like the red, satin gown she wore in the final scene.
If you were lucky enough to see the production last month at the former Florida Stage, I think you'd agree that
It. Was. More.Than.Wonderful!
|Photo credit Jeffrey A McDonald|
Set in Garland's backstage dressing room, the icon took us on a journey from her stolen Vaudeville childhood, through the relationship with MGM studios, her many husbands, her mercenary mother, and the nagging narcotics. Garland told her story of triumphs, defeats and come-backs. With biting wit she rails on those who forced their agendas on her, who started her on the 'pill mill' at 15 - a pill to keep her awake, help her sleep, shed excess weight. She struggled to regain her life when those around her orchestrated it against her will. She battled for her identity and independence despite being treated like a thing, a product, a paycheck for her producers. Her fierce love for her children was her only lifeline, her saving grace, for the moment, anyway.
The two-character script was written by Billy Van Zandt and played in New York for several weeks. How it got to the The Palm Beaches Theatre in Manalapan, is a story in itself.
Burt Reynolds had set things in motion for Marlow and insisted the show be a one-woman monologue. Marlow contacted offices in New York to see if Reynold's vision was possible and to procure licensing rights. Office workers directed her to Billy Van Zandt himself via email. A few emails later she got a personal phone call from the playwright. Delighted to speak with him directly, Marlow explained Burt's concept and where he wanted to trim the script. To her surprise, Van Zandt told her he had preferred it as a monologue and said it should start with the precise line Reynolds had recommended. Licensing was granted. With that kind of like-mindedness and affirmation, Marlow went to work and emerged with 90 minutes of a sparkling depiction of the true Garland.
|1957, Backstage at the Greek Theater - LA Times|
When many of us think of Judy Garland, we picture the young farm girl in a blue checkered dress, Toto in arms, belting out "Over the Rainbow." We soar with her mighty vocals to that magical land.
For others a darker image arises: one of a tragic, worn down woman. We mourn that she left this world so early.
Regardless of which image of Judy you ascribe to, you won't want to miss Marlow's grand portrayal of the legendary lady. The Property Known As Garland plays November 12th, 13th and 14th at 7pm and Sunday, November 15th at 2pm at The Palm Beaches Theatre, formerly The Florida Stage, 262 South Ocean Drive, in Manalapan. For tickets call 561-362-0003 or visit pbfilmfest.org.
You will see that Marlow's presentation is more than just a tribute, but a treatise on Garland's tenacious will. A declaration of her determination to resist defeat and to shine as the victorious star she was.
|Photo credit Jeffrey A McDonald|