2012 Toronto Fringe Festival: The Judy Monologues

Judy Garland speaks out in this touching and very personal tribute to the troubled star

Presented by Baby Gumm Productions
Conceived & Directed by Darren Stewart-Jones

Kimberly Roberts as Judy Garland. Photo by Maylynn Quan.

Darkness fills the theatre and a communal feeling of nostalgia is palpable as a 1949 Technicolor Wizard of Oz re-release trailer is projected onto the wall. The songs and characters in this film are universally recognized, especially the little girl from Kansas, whom everyone feels they know personally. This is just one of the many subjects discussed in The Judy Monologues, now playing at the Annex Theatre as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival. She may have been best known as a character in a children's movie, but there was much more to Judy Garland than a pair of ruby slippers.

Based on voice tapes from the mid-1960s that were recorded for her autobiography, The Judy Monologues is a creative look at a life that has been written and spoken about a great deal over the past 40 years. In terms of technical quality, the opening night performance got off to a bumpy start, with the poor sound making Garland's voice almost incomprehensible on the speaker. As the show begins, we meet the performer herself (played by Garland doppelganger Kimberly Roberts) who is silently sitting in her dressing room next to an ancient-looking tape recorder inside a suitcase. Although Roberts' Garland does not utter a word in the role, her famous voice comes from the three narrators sitting behind her. Clad in shirts of black, gold, and—of course—red sequins, Darren Stewart-Jones, Philip Cairns and Michael Hughes each take turns acting out Garland's voice tapes.

Several themes emerge through the monologues, specifically Garland's love for her children, Liza, Lorna, and Joe. She respects them, learns from them, and loves them unconditionally, which she repeats at several points during her recordings. She talks about her beginnings in Vaudeville, and gushes about how she is never more comfortable than when she's on stage. At several points during the monologues, a projector plays scenes from Till The Clouds Roll By, a colourful 1946 MGM musical featuring a young and beautiful Garland. Several scenes are silent, with Judy dancing or singing, but in one scene, the song “Look For the Silver Lining” is played in full, an interesting juxtaposition, as it follows a particularly emotional monologue. When clips from the film are not being shown, the spotlight is on Kimberly Roberts in her little black dress and pearls, her short dark hair and red lipstick causing the audience to feel as though they truly are in Garland's company.

Darren Stewart-Jones has created a very original production with The Judy Monologues, as the show offers strong narrative performances and a sympathetic look into Judy's thoughts, fears, and frustrations. Upon leaving the performance, the audience feels as though Garland was a very complex woman who needed to justify and validate herself constantly. She died of an accidental drug overdose before she could write her autobiography, but these voice tapes are in her own words, providing a brief glimpse into what it was like to be Judy.

Read our Q&A with The Judy Monologues' Darren Stewart-Jones here.

The Judy Monologues runs until July 15 at the Annex Theatre (735 Bathurst St.). Visit fringetoronto.com for a full schedule and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Fri, 2012-07-06 - Sun, 2012-07-15
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