Judy Garland is one of the most recognisable faces of the twentieth century, with tales of her hugely successful and somewhat troubled life still tremendously popular. Fans of the iconic star, are in for a treat at Southwark Playhouse, as a new show, entitled Through the Mill has opened and is a wonderful reminder of the performer, who was a real legend of both stage and screen.
Written and directed by Ray Rackham, the show cleverly intertwines three distinctive periods in Garland’s career; her days as a youngster at MGM, her success as a concert performer and her tumultuous time on her own CBS television show, which was cancelled after just twenty six episodes. The three Judy’s are portrayed simultaneously in an ingenious, interesting and totally compelling celebration of the performer, whose real name was Frances Gum and who started her career at the tender age of twelve.
Not billed as a musical and yet filled with music made famous by the star, the production boasts a fantastic cast with the trio of Garlands played with complete conviction by Belinda Wollaston, Lucy Penrose and Helen Sheals, who all bring their own class to their portrayals, but somehow manage to make their performances as one. Vocally, all three are mesmerising and if you were to close your eyes, you could easily think you were in the presence of the movie legend herself.
They are supported by an astonishingly talented ensemble cast made up of actor/musicians who play lovers, husbands and managers, but who also fade into the vintage movie set to act as the band when needed.
The show enjoyed a successful run at London Theatre workshop, prior to its transfer to Southwark Playhouse and I can imagine a further transfer to the West End is highly achievable.
Heartwarming funny and totally enchanting, Through the Mill is a must see, not only for Judy Garland fans, but for anyone who wants to enjoy a fabulously written and wonderfully performed drama.
Reviewed by Nicky Sweetland
Photo: Darren Bell
THROUGH THE MILL plays at Southwark Playhouse until 30 July 2016