A very impressive performance by Maxwell, supported wonderfully by Wilmot, makes End of the Rainbow a very enjoyable show.
The play concerns the months prior to Garlands death in 1969 when she was performing a six week run in London. We watch as she struggles with the pressures of such a feat, battles with drugs and new manager-come-fiancé. Maxwell brilliantly displays this struggle. We are shown snippets of these concerts in London, in which Maxwell becomes a star, transfixing the audience with her brilliant singing; a nuanced replica of Garland. Off stage, she shows us Judy’s quick witted nature in a very emotive performance revealing her deeper struggles.
Throughout End of the Rainbow, Garland has a life-line in the form of her comedic pianist Anthony, played by Gary Wilmot, who wants to rescue her from her drug riddled life. His comic timing is brilliant, embodying classic British humour. With an infectious laugh, he brings lots of joy to the show; every laugh of his felt real, and so did every heartfelt moment, played with brilliant realism and sincerity. Anthony is the perfect mediator to the chaotic relationship between Garland and her fiancé, played by Sam Attwater. Unfortunately, Mickey is a fairly stereotypical American sleaze, yet he is used well as the anchor keeping Garland in her downward drug spiral and away from the clean life Antony proposes.
The surprisingly funny script is initially in danger of becoming too repetitive, with each scene having a similar structure of ‘comedy followed by tragedy’, making us comfortable with Garlands sarcasm and wit before the scene plummets into arguments between the showbiz couple. But this structure disappears before it is used too much, leading on to the much more touching second half. You truly start to feel sorry for Garland at this point, as the script touches on her troubled past just enough for us to understand what she has been through without becoming too romanticised.
A very impressive performance by Maxwell, supported wonderfully by Wilmot, makes End of the Rainbow a very enjoyable show. If Judy Garland is unknown to you, there’s no need to be put off. The story stands on its own. If you are a fan, then it provides the hit songs and displays her glorious personality. End of the Rainbow provides an easy, entertaining evening full of laughter, great performances and brilliant singing - a lovely watch.