The Judy Garland Legacy Continues

Judy Garland still lives.

She is a 32-year-old Italian man from Long Island, New York with a love for entertainment and a knack for impressions. Judy Garland, is Peter Mac.

Well, he is as close to Judy Garland as we could possibly get, anyways.

Mac’s most rewarding experiences in his journey to revive Garland were the near identical statements he received on two separate occasions. They were very similar in nature; these statements occurred after two different performances, and they were sweet and to the point. They went a little something like this:

I never thought I would see Judy Garland in concert. Tonight, I did.

It is statements such as these which keep Mac going, as he strives to deliver the most realistic and spot-on impressions of Garland as he can muster.

“Those were some of the nicest compliments ever paid to me,” Mac said.

For those who, god forbid, are unfamiliar with Garland, I’ll break it down.

Considered to be one of the greatest performers of all time, Garland has received awards such as The Grammy awards, a Golden Globe award and Special Tony award.

She has starred in and held roles in classic films such as “The Wizard of Oz” (you may know her as Dorothy), “Strike Up the Band”, “A Star is Born” and “Meet Me in St. Louis.” She starred in television series “The Judy Garland Show” and has had countless albums released by Capitol Records.

Since 2002, Mac has dedicated himself to impersonating and bringing glory to the woman he believes to be the greatest entertainer of our time. It was at this time in New York City that he began starring in his first Judy-role in the Off-Broadway run “Judy and Me,” a show that Mac penned himself. It is an autobiographical play in which Mac plays Garland, and another actor plays Peter Mac’s character. The show highlights how Garland helped Mac through some of the toughest times of his life.

Since then , Mac has been performing at cabarets around L.A., determined to bring the deceased entertainer back to life in the most realistic and entertaining way possible.

Currently, you can find Mac at the French Market Place, a showroom located on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Throughout the month of March he will perform the act of “The Songs That Got Away” as Garland on every Friday and Saturday of the month. The cabaret holds about 75 people, and according to Mac, has mostly been sold-out during this month’s showings. The show features some signature Garland classics, as well as modern-day music which Garland, sadly enough, would never have the chance to perform.

Since there tends to be repeat-attendees of the shows, the cast likes to keep the performances fresh with unexpected twists in the performances.

“We try up to stir up the pot,” Mac said. “Each week we’ll pull stuff out and put stuff in.”

Mac sporadically launching into songs such as “I Will Survive,” as the “narrator” in the show is in the midst of asking Judy questions, is just one method used to catch the audience off-guard.

The Theme of the performances changes every month, with the coming April performance being The Lost Easter special.

The French Showroom Place performances have even pulled in stars such as Mila Kunis—you may know her from television series “That ‘70’s Show” and movies such as “Friends with Benefits,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Black Swan.” However, get ready to start knowing her as Theodora. Kunis is set to play the youngest of three witches in “Oz, the Great and Powerful,” the upcoming prequel to the 1939 classic, “The Wizard of Oz.”

Other people of prominence who have paid visits to Mac’s shows include actress Margaret O’Brien, and best-selling author Jackie Collins. Collins gave Mac’s show an outstanding review.

“Peter Mac is Judy Garland is not a drag show.  The illusion extends well beyond that antiquated form of performance. His portrayal of La Garland is Magical, Musical, Wonderful, and Brilliant. He has a gift for vocal mimicry… I can’t wait to see the rest of his cadre of Ladies,” she wrote.

Mac’s speedy transformation into Judy Garland is almost as impressive as his look is uncanny. Mac is responsible for all of his own makeup, and the process somehow can be done in as little as 45 minutes to an hour. As for his infamous Judy-wigs, hair and wig stylist Mark Hoyer is the man for the job. Hoyer has worked on many national Broadway tours such as “Wicked”, “Rent”, “The Phantom of the Opera”, “The Lion King” and “Hairspray.”

Oh, back to Judy.

Unfortunately, the way her legacy is often told falls extremely short of flattering. Her accomplishments tend to be overshadowed by her issues—which according to Mac—are insignificant specks of her reality, compared to the uncountable noteworthy achievements in her life. Let’s face it, Garland did have some issues. Not to mention, the fact that she was such an inspirational and known figure put her deviant behavior into the limelight. Garland soon became identified for nervous breakdowns, suicide attempts and substance abuse, a phenomenon often attributed to her low self-esteem. She lived and worked in an industry centered on appearance. Constantly being told she was too plump, or her face wasn’t attractive, Garland became insecure. According to sources, these insecurities and fears of never being good enough contributed to Garland’s tendency to turn to alcohol and drugs.

Another theory is that MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, an American media company involved in the production and distribution of films and television programs), which Garland was involved with, started her on these pills.

“She had checked herself into a hospital to kick the pills,” Mac said in defense of Garland, “She certainly tried to cure the addiction.”

Regardless of how Garland got started on these substances, they would ultimately lead to her demise. Garland died on June 22, 1969 at age 47, from an accidental overdose on barbiturates.

This side of Garland’s legacy is often the one which is told, and dominates the definition of her name. More unfortunate than anything, is the fact that this side of her is often the one portrayed even by most impersonators—the very people who set out to bring glory to an icon of the past.  Impersonations of her stumbling over drunk and talking in slurred speech tend to be most dominant.

Mac vowed he would never bring such a negative connotation to Garland’s name. However, there is one impersonator who in his eyes stood above the rest; who personified everything he wished to be in a Garland impersonator:

Jim Bailey, an internationally acclaimed singer, character, actor and comedian.

Mac fell in love with Bailey’s great sense of humor and classy impersonation of Garland. Although Garland’s character is often portrayed as a joke, she also receives a great amount of respect from those who recognize the tough life she endured and tried so desperately to overcome. A tough life is something that Mac, himself, is undeniably familiar with.

“Listening to her, I got this huge sense of ‘this is rough, but you’ll get through it,” Mac said.

Mac’s childhood was ultimately defined by Judy Garland. It started when he saw the Wizard of Oz at age five—Mac was instantly in love, and his passion for Judy Garland’s music and films only grew over time.

It would be an understatement to say that Mac’s Long Island suburb wasn’t the most accepting place to grow up in. In other words, it was flooded with narrow-minded individuals who believed there was a right way to do everything. Mac had the privilege (I hope you sense my sarcasm) of growing up in this environment.

This situation would be tough for anybody, let alone someone who defied the typical ideologies of the town. Mac was a homosexual growing up in a community, and time period in general, in which this type of lifestyle was the furthest thing from ‘acceptable.’ High school was rough, to say the least, for Mac. He was slammed into lockers, had his glasses broken, and was even stabbed with sewing needles among other inhumane circumstances. Mac also had a tough family life; his father was aggressive and abusive to Mac’s mother.

Although his issues had been around for quite some time, he recalls that his most frightening experience happened when he was sixteen.

“Things got to an all-time bad,” he said. “I was pursued home one night by a car.”

Mac raced home as fast as he could, while the guys in the jeep shouted terrible death threats and slurs such as “faggot.”As a result of this, combined with all the torment from the past years, Mac decided to become homeschooled. Mac would often retreat to the only place he felt safe; the basement. Here, he would pour his emotions out into Garland’s music.

None of these incidents ever held him back. He would continue to entertain his family with kooky celebrity impersonations, expanding his love for the entertainment business. His family would prove to be very supporting of his choices as time went on.

Judy Garland wasn’t someone who would make a short appearance in Mac’s life. She stayed. She stayed as both a friend and an inspiration.

Before making the decision to pay his tribute to Garland, Mac climbed up the entertainment industry and attained roles in a number of broadways. Some of these include a Broadway titled “Making Porn,” which ended up going on a national tour, and “Anne Frank – A Voice Heard,” a play in which Mac received the part of Peter, Anne Frank’s boyfriend.

It turned out that Mac would find a career and place of living that would welcome him with open arms. Currently, Mac resides in Los Angeles, a place he doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. He maintains that bringing Judy to L.A. was the best move he ever made.

He has but one thing to say when asked how long he plans to keep Judy around.

“As long as my ruby slippers will hold me up!” he said.

 

Melissa Gilbert Reprises Little House On The Prairie

0612_melissa_gilbert_74959082_88380702Laura Ingles Wilder wrote some amazing stories about her life in rural Iowa, growing up in the late 1800s.  The stories told of survival, and how families worked together to get things done.  It was a simple time in American history captured in some wonderful editions by Wilder that kids of all ages can enjoy reading about.  The main books in the set are Little House on the Prairie and Little House in the Big Woods.

In 1974 Little House on the Prairie came to life on television. Michael Landon starred as Pa, and Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingles.  The show was a family time tradition. Everyone would come home from work or school, do their chores, eat dinner then sit down together in front of the television to watch this amazing show.  Little House on the Prairie ran from 1974 to 1983, in which time we watched Melissa Gilbert grow and blossom.  She played the role of Laura flawlessly, branding her forever as the lovable character, despite her playing some dramatic roles on Lifetime Television.

Set to hit Broadway, Melissa Gilbert will once again show off her 19th century garb and join this big stage version of Little House on the Prairie.  This time however, she will portray Ma in the play, mainly due to her age. It would be very hard for her to pull off girlish Laura at the age of 45.

I doubt this will be a smash hit for Broadway, but the play will be wholesome and family friendly as the television show was.  It will be nice seeing Melissa in the story again, one that she helped make into a household name in the mid-70s.  I think this would be a show I would go to see, if it came to my area. I grew up watching it on television. I read the entire series of books from Laura Ingles Wilder and truly believe in the message they tell that family comes first even back then.  It’s a history lesson in a fun way that will benefit people of all ages.

Theater Evolution

Theaters have come a long, long way since the earliest ones that sprung up across America.  For many Americans the theater was the only form of live entertainment, so coming to the theater was a big deal.  Theaters came in many different shapes and sizes, from cheaply built ones to grand masters across our nation; the evolution of these buildings is not only interesting, but a work of art.

Obviously in the 1800s the East Coast had much more sophisticated examples of then modern day theaters than the West did, mainly because of money and supplies available.  The West, however, was not going to lose their ability to have live shows just because of their location.

BIRD CAGE THEATER

345033220_3838348d96Let’s look at the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona as an example of early western theaters.  The Bird Cage Theater had a stage and single wooden chairs spread across the main floor.  There was nothing acoustic about it, that’s not how it was designed.  The Bird Cage was just a quick and dirty place to watch a show.  Due to the lack of sophisticated materials, this wooden theater was nothing much to look at and probably uncomfortable, but it was a traveler’s town so it was meant to give those passing through a good show and not the comforts of home.  This place housed Vaudeville, Burlesque and musical shows throughout its life.

You probably wouldn’t have wanted a luxurious theater there anyway.  There were many outlaws that would come to a show and shoot their guns off, destroying the architecture.  Where they were, gold panning all day, the patrons were not very clean which would ruin fine theater chairs.  The  small gold mining town did not have a lot of places to hold a gala or party of sorts, so the theater, being able to accommodate, could easily have the chairs stacked and turned into a dance floor.  These theaters in places like the “Old West” could also stand for town meetings if the church was unavailable.

If you visit Tombstone today, you can see this amazing structure as it still stands abandoned.  Downstairs was an old poker and “play” room that Doc Holiday supposedly used with his girlfriend when he stayed in Tombstone, plus the Bird Cage Theater is said to be haunted.

FORD’S THEATRE

IMG_2303On the east coast of the United States we have a good example of a period theater with more amenities than the Bird Cage Theater, and just as much history.  This theater is the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Unlike the Bird Cage Theater, it has two tiers surrounding the three walls of the theater, stopping at the stage.  There is also a “state box” where the president would sit with his guests.  It’s that box that Lincoln was assassinated.  Ford’s Theatre had fixed theater chairs and carpeting on the floor, unlike the Bird Cage Theater.  It resembled the theaters you would find in Europe with period architecture.

Ford’s Theatre was used for the same events as the Bird Cage Theater was, which shows the diverse look and feel each one had despite the fact they were both built around the same period of American history.

However, a change came to America that would revolutionize theaters forever.  In the early 20th century, around 1914 to 1919, we would be introduced to movies.  At the time they were silent films, where a pipe organ would have to play music to add in drama.  Many theaters would have to be renovated in order to accommodate, or they would not be able to show motion picture movies.  This movement completely split the performing arts all together with live shows taking a back seat and eventually fading away.

In the early 1900s, a Romanian born architect named John Eberson came to America and settled in Missouri.  Eberson would revolutionize the art of the theater with his designs that incorporated live and motion picture performances. In 1915, Eberson worked in construction when he designed his first theater masterpiece in America called “The Paramount Theatre” in Austin, Texas.  That theater still stands today.  America loved his designs, because he brought the European feel to the theaters while maintaining the high standards necessary to theater enjoyment.  Each one was a Victorian work of art, now termed Gothic by some.  Eberson’s standard of design for theaters took off, and soon made him in high demand.  If he put a theater in your city, you were on the map.

Eberson designed many theaters around the U.S. which included:  (* = no longer exist)

The Paramount Theatre (Austin, Texas), Austin, Texas, 1915

*The Majestic Theater (Dallas), Dallas Texas, 1921

Orpheum, Wichita, Kansas, 1922

Olympia Theater, Miami, Florida, 1926

Tampa Theatre, Tampa, Florida, 1926; listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 1978.

State Theater, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1927

Capitol Theatre, Flint, Michigan, 1927

The Louisville Palace, Louisville, Kentucky, 1928

Uptown Theater, Kansas City, Missouri, 1928

Stanley Theater, Jersey City, New Jersey, 1928

*The Palace Theatre, Marion, Ohio, 1928

*Loew’s Akron, Akron, Ohio, (now Akron Civic Theater), 1929

*Loew’s Paradise Theater, The Bronx, New York, 1929 (one of the five Loew’s Wonder Theaters, which were Loew’s flagship theaters in the New York City area)

*Loew’s Valencia Theater, Queens, New York, 1929, another of the 5 Loew’s Wonder Theaters

Paramount Theatre, Anderson, Indiana, 1929

Majestic Theatre, San Antonio, Texas, 1929

The Warner Theatre, Morgantown, West Virginia, 1931

*Lakewood Theater (Dallas), Dallas Texas, 1938

Bethesda Theater, Bethesda, Maryland, 1938; listed on the National Register of Historic Places, 1999.

Silver Theater, Silver Spring, Maryland, 1938

*The Woodlawn Theatre, San Antonio, Texas, 1946

Theaters would forever model themselves after his work from the 1940s to the 1970s but could never compare.  Many new theaters removed the stage because live acts were just not common anymore, therefore not needed.  Finally, motion picture and live performances split, which gave two venues “Performing Arts Theatres” (where you would find those live acts), and movie theaters.  Many of Eberson’s theaters went into ruins because of the new multiplex theaters, except some places refused to let these works of art go into ruins and still maintain shows today.

Eberson’s work took second stage to these new multiplexes that showed multiple movies at one time.  They had better views, no longer had balconies, and removed a lot of the ambiances his theaters once had.  It remained like that till the mid to late 90s when we started to see luxurious stadium reclining seats and cup holders, and large HD screens with powerful Dolby Surround Sound. In some places they even have a fine dining bistro inside, with seats in the theater where you are served by a waiter prior to the show.

It’s amazing how the art has been removed from the theaters, but the luxuries still remain today and change with the times.  If you truly want to see a work of art, stop by any of John Eberson’s theaters; we have one right here in Tampa today.

Faith Prince In Broadway’s Little Mermaid

563762The Little Mermaid opened to packed houses at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on January 10th 2008 and is booked till August 2009. Walt Disney’s musical – The Little Mermaid tells the story of Ariel the daughter of King Triton. She is not happy underwater and longs to discover humans. She and her father quarrel about these fish eaters. Then Ariel meets Ursula the sea witch and asks her for help.

Based on the story by Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid is a big hit with young and old a like. The play is directed by Francesca Zambello and choreographed by Stephen Mear. The songs such as Part of Your World, Kiss the Girl, Under the Sea feature in the musical. The current show features Sierra Boggess as Ariel, Heidi Blickenstaff as Ursula, Sean Palmer as Prince Eric and Norm Lewis as King Triton.

Faith Prince would take over from Heidi Blickenstaff as Ursula from the 7th of April. Faith Price has won many accolades in Broadway. Winner of the Tony Award for the role of Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, she is planning to become the evil sea witch. The sea witch is half woman and half octopus and the role is quite demanding. Sherie Rene Scott, the originator of the character won a nomination from the Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance as Ursula. The role requires Faith Prince to don a frightful wig and multi tentacled costume. The character sings the famous number Poor Unfortunate Souls in the play.

Faith Price is a very renowned actress and has proved her talent in many ways. The winner of Tony Award, she was again recently nominated for the award for her performance in A Catered Affair. She has Drama Desk and Drama League nominations for her spectacular performances on stage.  Films and television also take quite a bit of her time. She would be seen soon in the film – Our Very Own. She has been a familiar face on television appearing in Spin City for five seasons and also in Now and Again.

Her Tony Award winning performance as Adelaide also won her the Best Actress Award in Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk. She also is the owner of two other Tony Award nominations for her portrayal of Ella Peterson in Bells are Ringing and Jerome Robbin’s Broadway. She bagged the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk nominations for these, as well.

Faith Prince is an accomplished singer. She has worked with Utah Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, The Boston Pops and many other bands. Her Australia show titled Moving On earned her a reputation as a rare and gifted singer. The show earned great reviews.

We wish Faith the very best and hope to see her as Ursula and maybe bag a few awards and nominations for her portrayal of the sea witch. Certainly the character would receive justification if the role is played by Faith Prince. There are no doubts as to her ability to perform but expectations are high and a spectacular performance is expected.

http://www.reedstickets.net/little-mermaid-tickets.html Little Mermaid Tickets and Resources. Little Mermaid tickets and resource web site covering all of New York City with reviews and venue resources.

Andrew Lloyd Webber- A Cat On Broadway

andrew-lloyd-webber-gal-12Andrew Lloyd Webber’s name is synonymous with Broadway and the performing arts across the globe and he’s not even an actor.  However, he is probably one of the most prolific playwrights and show-tune composers of this generation;  a true “cat” on Broadway.

This English born marvel dreamed of the bright lights and large stage since he was a child.  He was in all the theatrical classes and just engulfed himself in the industry.  His love of the industry has given him the drive to create some of the greatest plays and soundtracks for them.

cats20photo20for20webI doubt anyone can say they have never heard one of his songs in some way or fashion.  One of his greatest creations is the Broadway sensation, Cats.  This award winning play has touched millions, perhaps billions of people across the world and is one of the most anticipated plays to come to the big stage.  I think everyone knows that special feeling you get when you hear the song “Memories” from that play.  It was even a song that has been played on some of the Top 40 radio stations across the USA. 

You may even know the song “Jesus Christ Superstar” that swooped in and made the Billboard charts in the mid 70s.  That song was made for the play Jesus Christ Superstar, created by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  The play shows a more uplifting re-enactment of the life and times of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of Webber.  Today that song is still played on some of the classic rock stations such as Oldies 106.3 in Tampa,  and will remain a timeless classic on the radio and in the theaters.

phantom20of20the20opera20-8Webber also made one of the greatest supernatural love stories come to life on Broadway with his version of the novel written by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera.  This particular play not only won awards for Webber, but has ranked up as another highly anticipated play when it comes to an area.  Usually it sells out the day tickets go on sale.  The mysterious play contains one of Webber’s songs that has become timeless with Broadway, “The Music Of The Night.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber has forever changed Broadway and theatrical plays as we know it.  He is the Amadeus Mozart of Broadway.  His plays will amaze you and  if you haven’t seen one at all, it is highly recommended  that you go.  They are masterfully written and  the songs will send chills down your spine as they blast off the stage speakers and bring you into a fantasy world.  Webber has a list of plays, more than we covered here and we hope that you will check each one out if they come to your area.  Or, if you are ever in New York, check them out by seeing them on Broadway.   If you are in the Tampa Bay area, many of his plays can be seen at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.  Check out their web site to see if one is coming to Tampa soon.

A Blast From The Past – Tampa Theatre

Tampa Theatre- Dowd StudiosSometimes we all wish we could just get into a time machine and go back to the good ole days, forget the present and return to a simpler time. Until they invent such a device, the closest thing we have here in the Tampa Bay area is the nostalgic Tampa Theatre.

Tampa Theatre opened in 1926, and was considered one of the premier theatres in the Tampa Bay area. The designer John Eberson was a master designer of theatres and made only a few around the USA. Having this jewel in our backyard helped put Tampa on the map. 

You’ll see from the moment you step foot inside this theater that it is a work of art. Gargoyles loom around the theater walls, the sky glows stars before the show, the ornate furniture still remains in the theater which is of the time period, and the grand marble steps when you enter will take your breath away. Today it’s one of the only two deck theaters still standing, and one of six John Ebersons still in use. Little has changed since Tampa Theatre opened its doors back in October of 1926.

The theater was built in the silent film era, so it’s no surprise that “Ace of Cads,” a silent film, was the first motion picture on their square silver screen. During the life of Tampa Theatre, Disney bestowed the honor of premiering “101 Dalmations.” Premiers are something every theatre dreams of having at their establishment and Disney, one of the biggest names in entertainment today, chose Tampa Theatre to have one.

Tampa Theatre- Dowd StudiosUnfortunately with the urban sprawl away from downtown Tampa, and theaters started to have multiple screens in one establishment, Tampa Theatre lost its luster throughout the 1960s and 70s. Within this time, the theatre would close, and remained abandoned for quite sometime. Like most theatres back then, demolition was inevitable, but the citizens of Tampa realized what they had and fought to keep the wrecking ball from destroying this beautiful work of art.

In 1973, the City of Tampa took control over the dilapidated theatre and started to restore the palace back to its original glory. In 1978, the theatre was back to its ways, showing independent and nationally acclaimed movies. It also set a standard on theatre restoration for the rest of the country.

In 1988, Tampa Theatre was deemed a historic landmark, an honor not many places are bestowed and now forever ranks as one of the oldest operating theatres in the US, protected by this historic preservation act. 

Today Tampa Theatre is run by a non-profit organization. They have independent movies and plays and they continue to bring back the old classics that once played on the square screen in their “Summer Movie Classics” series. The mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ, which was recently completely restored, plays before each movie as an added treat for patrons, it really is a sight to see and hear.  Tampa Theatre is good, clean, wholesome fun for the whole family, in a museum-like atmosphere which is a work of art in and of itself.
The Expressionist Magazine