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You'll be smiling at Meadow Brook Theatre

In the final moments of "Beyond the Rainbow" at Meadow Brook Theatre, Judy Garland sits alone on an edge of the Carnegie Hall stage. A single spotlight draws all eyes to her. The year is 1961, and as the 38-year-old faded movie star sings her signature song, lifelong memories of success and failure, joy and heartbreak bubble to the surface. It's a poignant, powerful moment for Garland, yet it's also a shining moment for Kimberly Vanbiesbrouck who portrays her. For in this one unforgettable trip over the rainbow, Vanbiesbrouck fully captures the many contrasts that shaped the legend of this beloved show-biz icon.
"The history of my life is in my songs," Garland once said, and that's the premise of William Randall Beard's 2005 play with music. The story unfolds on what's been called "the greatest night in show business history," as Garland records a double album before a live audience. Memories of earlier times drift into the singer's consciousness – and the journey is often painful for the former Frances Gumm.
Beard's script deftly mixes lyrics with defining moments in Garland's life. With "When You're Smiling," for example, a young Judy Garland learns the whole world will smile at her only if she's thin – and a lifelong addiction to prescription drugs begins. Later, "How Long Has This Been Going On" foreshadows the revelation that husband Vincent Minnelli has been cheating on her – with men.
The characters and songs seamlessly come and go thanks to top-notch direction by Travis W. Walter and lighting design by Reid G. Johnson.
But it's the performances that are most impressive.
Seth Amadei, Chris Korte and Milica Govich are all excellent in their many supporting roles. (Govitch especially stands out as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and mother Ethel Gumm.)
And Andrea Mellos channels the young Judy Garland both vocally and visually throughout the show.
However, it's Vanbiesbrouck who steals the spotlight – with her superb voice, her uncanny mannerisms and the many quiet moments during which she observes the haunting memories that surround her.

REVIEW:
'Beyond the Rainbow'
Meadow Brook Theatre, 2200 N. Squirrel Rd., Rochester. Wed.-Sun., through March 1. Tickets: $24-$39. For information: 248-377-3300 or http://www.mbtheatre.com



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