Beyond The Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall

Playbill cover of Jody Briskey as Judy Garland. (Arts Garage / July 17, 2013)

When the play-with-music “Beyond the Rainbow: Garland at Carnegie Hall” comes to Delray Beach’s Arts Garage, it will be a much different show than any of the other dozen or so stagings.

“It used to be a theater experience and we’re turning it into a cabaret experience,” says director Ron Peluso, from History Theatre in St. Paul, Minn., where he is artistic director. “Our cast is embracing it a lot. They’re embracing the Arts Garage’s intimacy. It’ll be more like Judy Garland is singing at your table.”

Here is an oral history of the show and how it was restaged over the last three days for Friday's (July 19) opening:

Director Ron Peluso: “Here at the History Theatre we commission a lot of works … [about] the diverse American experience of the Midwest. Judy Garland is from Grand Rapids. She’s a local hero. I had an idea about a play for Judy Garland and I brought it to Randy Beard. I believe it was 2003 when he started working.”

Playwright William Randall Beard: “I was actually going after a different commission. Of course I jumped at it. But I got to tell you…I was never a Judy Garland fan. I’d seen ‘Wizard of Oz’….but I didn’t see things like ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ or ‘A Star Is Born’ until I got the commission. I had in my collection a concert tape I found at a garage sale and it was of her singing at Carnegie Hall. It was the best 25 cents I ever spent.”

Lou Tyrrell, artistic director of Theatre at Arts Garage: “My mom was a huge Judy Garland fan so we had all her albums at home. Her image and stature through the generations has had a staying power that few artists from any other era have had. There are a handful of 20th century iconic artists that are emblematic of the century and she’s one of them. It’s the story of America at the time.”

Peluso: “When we were looking into her life we found this quote, something to the effect of, ‘The story of my life is in my music.’ Well, all of those songs kind of do tell the story about her life. I think we use about 80 percent of the concert songs and the other 20 percent are songs that just make good dramatic sense.”

Beard: “I realized that [the 1961 Carnegie Hall concerts] made a really nice way to structure the play…that if you had the elder Garland performing the songs and thereby provoking the memories and the memories come to life. So there is an actress playing the younger Judy and three actors playing all the other roles.”

Tyrrell: “We did [the show] together back in 2006 at Florida Stage and it was a wonderful evening and a great tribute to the enormous talent in Judy Garland. But now, [Peluso] having the experience under his belt, not only him but his whole ensemble cast, now they have the fun of going into a cabaret setting and re-conceiving it.”

Peluso: “I think I get in Monday and we restage the whole show in three days to get it ready for Friday’s opening.”

Tyrrell: “Doing it in a cabaret environment is so perfect for this play. They are bringing the play out into the audience. It’s a spontaneous venue. An event at Arts Garage is very much in the moment. We don’t focus on a lot of bells and whistles. We focus on raw talent.”

IF YOU GO

“Beyond The Rainbow: Garland At Carnegie Hall”

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; 2 p.m. Saturdays and 7 p.m. Sundays


Photos: Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade's fashion show

Where: Arts Garage, 180 NE First St., Delray Beach

Cost: $30 to $40

Contact: 561-450-6357 or ArtsGarage.org.