Almost Home, The Untold Stories of Judy Garland

Reviewed by Regina Su

‘Almost Home’ is a very moving experience that brings to life Hollywood sweetheart, Judy Garland.  Performed and written by Daniel Downing, the show is based on the autobiography and recollections of Garland’s last husband, Mickey Deans. The show explores her rise to stardom at such a young age, and the toll that took on her once she was home and the ruby slippers were kicked off.

I was deeply affected by the monologue performed by Daniel Downing. It was very expertly written and helped the audience to not only see everything that was happening, but also feel what Mickey Deans would've felt too. Downing played Deans with such character; every emotion felt genuine, natural and warm.

I was immediately absorbed by such excellent storytelling, as Downing was able to capture each and every member of the audience on a very personal level, with eye contact that pulled and demanded your attention. He also had a wonderful command of pacing. Nothing was ever rushed, so I really felt like, in fact I believed for a moment , that he was Mickey Deans, who was sharing the intimate details of his life with Judy Garland. What a stellar performance.

As a one-man cabaret-esque show, Downing seamlessly transitioned between Broadway show tunes and monologue. New male arrangements of Garland’s greatest hits were performed, including; “The Man that Got Away,” The Trolley Song,” “Come rain or come shine,” and, of course, “Over the Rainbow.” My goodness. “Over the Rainbow” gave me chills, and was sung with such heart and melancholy. In fact, each song was a showstopper. Downing has vocals that are untapped power, yet he shows sweet constraint and reserve. I particularly enjoyed his performance of “Smile”.

The audience was mesmerised. We were exposed to the true story of how the lights of Hollywood exposed and used a talented little girl, someone we've all grown to know and love from ‘The Wizard of Oz’. As my partner commented, this production “doesn't make me like or respect Judy any less… but it does shatter the image of her in my mind”. That's exactly what it does. To an extent, this production was inspiring, as I sat back in the audience during interval and eavesdropped in on  conversations people were having about the life of Judy Garland, and her children.

I cannot commend those involved in this production highly enough. Musical Director, Bev Kennedy,  was an excellent accompanist. She never faltered and managed to set the scene with beautiful slow jazz that was at times a little nostalgic.  She played the show tunes with great gusto, and was a perfect addition to a wonderful evening.

Finally, the Foundry 616 was a fantastic venue for an event such as this. Intimate,  lovely food and an extensive bar. I recommend this show for a great night out.