By Colin Douglas
Angela Ingersoll is a bright-shining star. There’s no denying this fact, and the Chicagoland actress has brought her bravura, one-woman show to Evanston for just two weeks. For anyone who loved Judy Garland, the melodic classics of the 1940’s through the 60’s or audiences who simply want to enjoy a two-hour treasure trove of great music, performed by mega-gifted musical actress, a perfect production is playing for a limited time at Nichols Concert Hall.
Ingersoll, who wowed audiences in this theatre company’s 2006 production of South Pacific, also made audiences laugh uproariously as sexy Hedy LaRue in Marriott’s H2$. Here she is in great form once again. Like her Jeff Award-winning performance as Garland in Porchlight Music Theatre’s End of the Rainbow, as well as her Emmy-nominated television special, Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland, Ingersoll doesn’t simply sing the songs of the famous movie star; she hauntingly becomes Garland with every nuance, gesture and facial expression.
Having been told throughout her entire life that she strongly resembles the famous film and TV star, Angela developed her look and vocal style as an homage to one of Tinseltown’s greatest icons. The result is this astounding production that’s presented in a gorgeous, intimate setting. Since Ingersoll has become a walking encyclopedia article concerning the actress, she spends part of the second act fielding questions about Garland and hearing testaments from audience members who remember seeing the actual star in concert.
The evening opens with Charlie Chaplin’s, “Smile.” She segues into a medley that includes “I’ve Got Rhythm” and “Singing in the Rain.” Ingersoll encourages the audience to join her as she sings “Bells Are Ringing (For Me and My Gal).” Next, Ingersoll alternates the mood with each golden oldie, enchanting theatergoers first with an effervescent “The Trolley Song,” then the melancholy “But Not For Me,” followed by a pulse-racing “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” and concluding with the pensive “After You’ve Gone.”
She begins her next set with another of Garland’s memorable classics, “Get Happy.” Then she leaves her audience spellbound with her bluesy rendition of “The Man That Got Away.” As a tribute to Garland’s beloved son, Joey, (with whom Angela has actually become friends) she entertains us with “Happiness is a Thing Called Joe.” Angela concludes the first half of her concert with a rousing “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody.”
Changing from her first act dress into a more relaxed, second act glittery pants ensemble, Ingersoll opens with “When You’re Smiling.” She becomes a weather girl as she bewitches her audience with the titular “Come Rain or Come Shine” followed by a sultry performance of “Stormy Weather.” Recalling Garland’s memorial performance, following the assassination of President Kennedy, the artist performs a goose bump-inducing “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” This is followed by a few lesser-known tunes, until Ingersoll practically brings the audience to its feet with her zippy version of “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town).” She concludes the evening with her soulful, long-awaited presentation of “Over the Rainbow.” Clearly the audience wanted more, so Ingersoll offered an encore with another of Garland’s Al Jolson treasures, “Swanee.”
The show is co-produced by Angela and her talented husband, Michael Ingersoll as part of their Artists Lounge Live concert series. This popular program has taken the couple all over the country, earning them both popular and critical accolades wherever they go. This Chicago presentation also features Jeremy Kahn, at the piano and as the show’s conductor. His talented, onstage ensemble of musicians includes Patrick Mulcahy on bass, Vance Okraszewski on drums, Alex Beltran on a variety of woodwinds, John Moore, Jr. on trumpet and Timothy Coffman on trombone.
There can be no denying that Garland was one of America’s finest, iconic 20th century performers. She was an American singer, actress, dancer and vaudevillian who left an indelible mark. Respected for her versatility, Garland was awarded with the Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and a special Tony. Her performance at Carnegie Hall is still called the biggest event in show business history, with a great recording, that’s still in print, to commemorate her performance. Chicago’s own Ingersoll pays homage to this wonderful performer with her one-woman concerts. This limited run in Evanston is an exciting opportunity to not only relive the memorable music of a bygone era, but to enjoy, in person, a bravura performance by one of Chicago’s greatest musical theatre treasures.
Music Theater Works presents “Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine” through October 14 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston. More information and tickets are available here.