Article by Ed Witcomb | 14 Aug 2006
It's unlikely a mere review will persuade the cool cats of the Festival to rouse themselves for a two-hour, midday, musical biopic of Judy Garland, but here goes. Camper than Frankie Howerd, slicker than Frank Sinatra and louder than General Franco, The End Of The Rainbow is fun-packed nostalgia at its glitzy, kitschy best.

The play goes backstage to chart the troubled diva's losing battle with booze, pills and bloody men during a run in London's West End in 1968. It is fertile subject matter, the singer pulled in different directions by blokey fiance Mickey Deans who insists the show must go on, gay pianist Anthony who insists she call it off, and the audience which laps up every line of every song. It's a sharply focused tale, but it is Caroline O'Connors towering performace as Garland that makes The End Of The Rainbow such a joy. The raffish one-liners and hammed up drunkenness had the many pensioners in the audience cackling mischievously. And her booming yet nuanced renditions of Garland's famous numbers oozed emotional conflict.

In playing Garland's trauma mostly for laughs the play misses an opportunity to be truly tragic, and the supporting cast is slightly underwhelming. But those are little quibbles – even the trendiest of hearts will be filled with glee by this fabulous show.