‘End of the Rainbow’ promises sincere, sober look at Garland late in career


Intrepid Theatre Co. of Encinitas recently announced its next presentation for Season Six, a San Diego premiere of Peter Quilter’s “End of the Rainbow.”

The production will be staged at the Lyceum Space Theatre in Horton Plaza, downtown San Diego, opening Nov. 1, running through Nov. 29.

An Olivier Award and Tony Award nominee, “End of the Rainbow” is a musical drama based on iconic star Judy Garland’s comeback concerts in Christmas 1968 that portrays the singer/actress as she struggles to rekindle her career after failed marriages, suicide attempts and addiction.

The comedic drama features an ensemble of Garland’s famed hit songs and displays both the glamour and the melancholy of stardom.

Acclaimed international actress Eileen Bowman — recent recipient of the Craig Noel Award for playing Adelaide in Lamb’s Players’ “Guys and Dolls” — performs the lead role of Garland.

In the show, Garland is 46, and with the most recent love-of-her-life, Mickey Deans, at her side, she attempts to recapture her youthful magic and find lasting happiness.

“It’s very exciting to be playing Garland,” said Bowman. “I’ve never played anyone who has actually existed,” she added. “It’s a daunting task, you want to get it right.”

Bowman has an “uncanny ability to capture the humor, beauty and reckless nature of this infamous silver screen icon,” said Intrepid’s artistic director, Christy Yael-Cox.

Fascinated with Garland as a child, Bowman watched her in “The Harvey Girls” and “Meet Me in St. Louis” and was so intrigued with the star that she did a book report in grade school based on Garland’s biography.

“I remember thinking her life was so traumatic, even back then, and that no one should have to go through what she went through,” said Bowman about the abuse that Garland suffered as a product of the film industry.

As an actress, Bowman feels that vulnerable pain. “We’ve been doing some very heavy scenes in rehearsals. You go to a place that can be very dangerous, so you have to know when to pull out.”

There is also a depth of despair in the character. “To play that, I really have to navigate myself to a safe place to protect myself,” Bowman stressed.

The show hits highs and lows emotionally. “Judy Garland was hysterically funny and had a cutting sense of humor,” said Bowman. “But when she got drunk or got high on something, that sense of humor would cut right to the bone.”

In the show, Garland is depicted with the duality of her inner child contrasting with her professional persona.

“So we see her humor, but also witness her awful, awful potty mouth. She cursed like a sailor, but that’s who she was,” said Bowman, who commented that the challenging role will be a pivotal one. “I feel like I’m growing up playing this role,” she added.

Yael-Cox’s approach to the show is one of subtlety; her direction as a woman brings a sensitivity to the role of Garland by peeling off a complexity of layers to reveal and understand her character.

“Christy is a smart, smart woman and she is treating this show with velvet gloves. It’s not about a drugged-out woman, we are going in-depth into her in a sensitive, scaled-down way, and hopefully the audience will feel everything that we are going through,” Bowman said.

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