Friday, 17 August 2007

Get Happy - Kings Head Theatre

Get Happy: By Debbie Saloman
Kings Head Theatre - Islington : 31st July - 26th August
Directed by Adam Zane
Reviewed by Sarah Brown

Get Happy! based on Judy Garland’s return to the stage in the 1960s, must be a gruelling one for performer Debbie Saloman, comprising as it does 90 minutes of her as the main or sole actor. However, she was well rewarded for her stamina on the night I saw the show as rarely have I been in such an appreciative audience. By the time it got to the ‘interactive audience singalong’ I was half wondering whether I had stumbled across a little known cult based on the music of Judy Garland.

The show is highly stylised, with Saloman impersonating Garland in persona as well as song. As someone previously entirely ignorant about her life there were some interesting autobiographical details, including around her apparently somewhat tense relationship with the press. I had no idea they lambasted her for being fat. A female star criticised for being fat – you’d never get that nowadays would you? Some things don’t change much it would seem.

Saloman has an amazing and powerful voice and a small room at the back of the Kings Head Pub didn’t really do her justice. The show included a medley of favourites that even I had heard of including ‘When You’re Smiling’, and ‘Over the Rainbow’. The second half in particular was packed with hits, as it was set in a club just after Garland had finished her triumphant show at Carnegie Hall. A creative and economical mind had managed to transform the stage for the second half with the aid of silver drapes and the pianist and drummer were nattily dressed in 50s gear.

The Wizard of Oz reminiscences were great. I have no idea if they were based on fact or fancy but I rather liked the thought of glamorous make-up girls picking up the ‘munchkins’ and tickling them, especially the ’40-year-old German man’.

Saloman certainly seemed to have done her homework as the show was packed with details of this nature. Many of the details were sad but veiled in humour, such as the repeated theme of Garland’s drinking (she kept a bottle of Blue Nun on the stage – that’s the sponsors dealt with).

I left knowing much more about the life of Judy Garland than I had previously but also humming a few old hits. Despite the sadness of much of Garland’s life, the overall theme of the show is positive and uplifting.

Potential theatre-goers should mug up on the songs, however, so as not to be exposed as frauds during the sing-along section. And not just ‘Over the Rainbow’ either – the cult of Judy demands something more obscure. You have been warned.

Get Happy Continues at The Kngs Head until the 26th August for more infrmation visit or Visit Hope Theatres Website on
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