While the Chicago theater scene is where I spend my time, I have just discovered a hidden gem in our neighbor to the north, Milwaukee. The Marvelous The Milwaukee Rep, a complex located in the downtown section, just minutes off the highway where audiences can see dramas, powerful classics, contemporary works, full scale musicals, cabaret and holiday treats. This beautiful building with great sight lines is a fully scheduled venue designed to be both entertaining and very affordable.
Their current production on the Main Stage ( which has a strange name, but is a dynamite venue to see a production, the Quadracci Powerhouse) is “End Of The Rainbow”, written by Peter Quilter, a brilliant story of the comeback of one of America’s Icons, Judy Garland. The year is 1968 and Judy is in London to make her comeback ( again). In this two hour drama with music, we see the struggles that Ms Garland had. her inner conflict with the booze and drugs, her love/hate relationship with her “new” fiancee/manager and her struggles with life in general.
This is a play with music, music that is memorable to almost everyone over 40 ,such as “The Man Who Got Away”, “Come Rain or Come Shine” and a spellbinding, tear jerking rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” that ends this amazingly beautiful production. Directed by Mark Clements of a set designed by Dan Conway, that represents a London Hotel Suite and then becomes a stage in the club where the performance takes place. Amazingly swift changes that allow the continuity to be sheer magic to our eyes.
Speaking of sheer magic, it is the actress that portrays Ms Garland that truly makes this tour de force so special- Chicago favorite Hollis Resnik becomes Judy Garland and steals our hearts from the moment she takes the stage. The energy she brings to the stage, as always, is amazing, just as her vocal talents . She IS Ms Garland! At least for two hours plus.
Supporting her in this magical tour de force are Chicago actor Thomas J. Cox as Anthony, her piano player and “Gay Confident”, Nicholas Harazin as “fiance/manager Micky and Jonathan Gillard Daly playing other roles. The relationship between Ms Garland and both of the men in her life during this period is a string indication of her topsy- turvy world and the roller coaster ride that she called life. It was not long after this “comeback” that her magical life came to an end and to many, one of the greatest musical talents was gone for good. But, her music still lives and many of her admirers ( not just the “gay” community) still think of her when they hear certain songs.
I for one am glad that I discovered this wonderful theater just an hour or so north of the city ( from Highland Park, we were there in just about an hour).Watching Ms Resnik on any stage is always a treat, but seeing her tackle this role was to me a theatrical experience and well worth the trip to Milwaukee. “The End Of The Rainbow” will continue at Milwaukee Rep located at 108 East Wells Street in Milwaukee through February 9th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 7 p.m.
There are also matinees at 1:30 p.m. on January 22nd and 29th
Tickets range from as little as $20 and can be purchased by calling 414-224-9490 or online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com where you can also see some of the special events that go along with this production, some of the local dining spots, parking ( we were able to find a spot on the street with free meters ( welcome to Milwaukee).
Want to see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com and go to Review Round-up, then click at “End of the Rainbow”. I know Milwaukee is not Chicago, but guess what? This one is worth the ride!