By JACKIE MOE
Before Angela Ingersoll steps out onto the stage to portray film icon Judy Garland in the Broadway musical “End of the Rainbow,” she turns on one of Garland’s albums and does her own hair and makeup.
“That’s my time to commit to being truly present for the task at hand. As I paint her portrait in the mirror before me, I fall in love with Judy all over again. It’s always full of discovery,” said Ingersoll, who received a Jeff Award nomination for “best actress in a play” for the role in September.
The Chicago actress shines in her portrayal of Garland with a unique yet uncanny style that makes the audience feel like they are truly witnessing the singer and film icon tell her story. The La Mirada Theatre is currently presenting the play through Sunday, Nov. 12.
The musical drama, written by Peter Quilter, spotlights the life of Judy Garland in the months leading up to her death in 1969, at the age of 47. The production had its premiere in Sydney in 2005 and opened on Broadway in 2012.
Ingersoll took the time to share insight into her role as the legendary actress-singer:
What have been the challenges of taking on this role as Garland?
This production of “End of the Rainbow” is my second. We had a very short rehearsal process, which demands excellence from the entire artistic team. I’ve only been working with our director Michael Matthews for a week and a half, and I am in love. He’s a gorgeous artist. He’s helped me keep a fresh approach, even though I’ve been singing Judy non-stop for a couple of years now. In addition to this show, I also sing my own concerts of Judy’s music all over the country. Just a week before we began rehearsals, I finished filming my Judy concert for Public Television. My life has, just in the past couple of years, dramatically shifted focus to shining a light on her legacy, as her artistic descendant.
Previous to taking on the role, what did Garland mean to you?
I’ve been a devoted fan of Judy’s for as long as I can recall. I don’t remember a time without her. So many of us meet her as children, when she’s a child as well, and her Dorothy stays with us. Yet even as a child, I was most attracted to 60s Judy, to TV Show Judy, to Carnegie Hall Judy. I saw a self-possessed woman and artist and knew that’s what I wanted to be. Now that I’ve just turned 40, I feel I’ve come into the time of my life I’ve always dreamed about.
The press pitch stated you are “the spitting image of Judy” – have you received this comparison throughout your life?
I have been compared to, or likened to Ms. Garland since I was about four years old. That’s when I started singing. Folks said to me then, as they do now, “How does that big voice come out of that little body?” People have continuously throughout my life pointed out my similarities to Judy: stature, eyes, emotional intensity, sheer volume. Even our teeth are crooked in precisely the way – of course she wore caps over her teeth during the MGM years. So yes, I’ve always been short, loud, and confident.
Every actor/actress can feel the energy of the audience at specific parts of the story. What parts of this production do you feel the audience become the most exhilarated?
I can certainly hear an audible reaction to my first entrance. I hear folks tittering and sizing me up, all five feet of me. They’re commenting on my stature, my hair, as well as Bill Morey’s striking costumes. There’s a palpable outpouring of love and excitement from the audience in all of the musical numbers, but when we get to “Over The Rainbow” we’re all of us at our most intimate and exposed. The listening we share in that song is, for me, quite spiritual.
What song numbers are your personal favorite?
It is always pure joy to sing “Over The Rainbow.” It is the greatest song of the 20th century, and a perfectly marvelous existential poem. As we grow, “Rainbow” grows with us; that’s its magic. I would say that the emotional power of “The Man That Got Away” has ingrained itself most deeply into the fibers of voice and body. It’s cathartic. And it is utterly exhilarating to sing “Come Rain Or Come Shine” with our outstanding orchestra. It’s a burning arrangement that really soars!
What do you want your audience to take from this production?
Well, our story is both deeply inspiring and deeply painful. I hope that audiences confronting and experiencing that pain can find a sense of peace in their own hearts. Because none of us has a monopoly on heartache. I believe this beloved music and this great humor can give us all the courage to feel a little less alone.
“End of the Rainbow”
Where: La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd.
When: Currently presented through Nov. 12