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Almost Home – The Untold Stories of Judy Garland

Daniel Downing
Daniel Downing

A brief review of a brief show. It’s been well documented that Judy Garland (1922-1969) struggled with inner demons – her conduct meant Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which made a young star out of her, perhaps most notably in the 1939 picture The Wizard of Oz, didn’t have much choice put to let her go. Almost Home tells Garland’s story from the perspective of Mickey Deans (1934-2003) (Daniel Downing), Garland’s fifth husband.

The show is a departure from the usual broadly joyful fare to be found at The Crazy Coqs – so much so that I found myself accepting an invitation from the staff to stay behind for some jazz music afterwards. I certainly needed it after this hard-hitting story, punctuated by tunes and excerpts of tunes, with Downing flitting between song and spoken word quite seamlessly: it was some time before the audience even had the opportunity to applaud what was a tour de force performance.

The warm way the story is presented makes a difference, as is the attention to detail – I rather enjoyed, for instance, an anecdote about having to find a clergyman who would marry a Catholic man and a Jewish woman divorced four times over. Downing’s Deans was sat down periodically, which wasn’t altogether helpful for people sat further back in a venue without a rake, but this is a minor quibble in an otherwise flawless production.

One need not know anything beforehand about either Garland or Deans to follow the story, which is always a big plus in my book. There’s also just the right amount of stage presence going on, enough to keep the audience engaged but never overpowering. I also found the show incredibly well-paced, steady and unhurried, unlike the kind of straight-through, no-interval shows that simply cram too much in. The attention to detail is notable – there were aspects of Garland’s life and times that I hadn’t appreciated before, and only perhaps those in the audience who hold Garland with as much regard and esteem as Downing does already knew absolutely everything spoken about in this show.

Whatever one’s level of prior knowledge, it’s a very poignant production. Heavy on good old-fashioned storytelling, the set is basically a chair, a few drinks and a piano. The ending, meanwhile, is inevitably sad, and even though the audience senses an emotional moment approaching, it doesn’t make it any less impactful. Downing turns on the water works – but there’s a key difference between a display of strong emotion and coming across as somewhat overindulgent: there’s plenty of the former here and none of the latter. Full marks for a mesmerising and worthwhile experience.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Following a sell-out season at Sydney’s Mardi Gras Festival, Lambert Jackson Productions are thrilled to present Daniel Downing in his five-star show, Almost Home.

Almost Home brings to life the untold stories of Judy Garland, through the eyes of the man who last held her heart, Mickey Deans.

Based on an autobiography written by Mickey, about Judy, Almost Home delves into the heart and soul of the ruby-slippered superstar, celebrating how incredibly loved she was: firstly, as the world’s most successful movie star, but more importantly, as a wife, mother and friend.

2 AUGUST | 9.15PM
https://www.brasseriezedel.com/live-at-zedel/

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