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Almost Home

★★★★★ Theatre Weekly “Filled with nostalgia and sincere admiration for Judy Garland” – Elizaveta Kolesnikova
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Theatre Weekly

Elizaveta Kolesnikova

Filled with nostalgia and sincere admiration for Judy Garland, one-man show Almost Home, written and performed by Daniel Downing at The Crazy Coqs is a great performance for all kinds of audience.

In this show, actor and singer Daniel Downing tells the story of Judy Garland from the perspective of her last husband, Micky Deans. The show is full of insights into her biography and covers the events both from her personal life and her career. Each word and each song of her husband filled with sorrow love for her. We can feel his admiration of her talent, his desperation about her drug issues, and his sadness about her passing away.

The show is built as a mixture of his monologues and songs, among which audiences will recognise numerous hits by Judy, from ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Smile’ to ‘Stormy Weather’ and ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. Daniel has impressive singing talent and manages to deliver each song in his own variation but with strong respect to the original. All these are accompanied on piano (Bev Kennedy) and create a very special environment.

There is little to be said about set design – we see just a piano and an armchair next to coffee table with few bottles and glasses served on it. It is supposed to imitate the hotel room where Micky gives an interview about Judy. However, it is the performance which matters and is very emotional, Daniel manages to transfer his audience to different times and locations with just his storytelling. Lights help to switch between the episodes, and little red lamps on the tables at The Crazy Coqs add an intimate and comforting touch.

After the first few songs, the audience starts to get involved in the story of Judy and Mickey more and more, reacting to the stories he tells us. By the end of the evening, I had one though in my mind: I don’t want this performance to end.

That blossoming of female roles in the mid 20th century is called out by Dreaver after the Rodgers and Hammerstein sequence, albeit while introducing numbers from Gypsy (burlesque dancer strips for the entertainment of men) and Oliver! (woman sings ballad about returning and returning to the abusive husband who would ultimately kill her). But while the politics of the characters may be in dispute, the performance of the songs is not: Ria Jones’s Rose’s Turn is magnificent, while Rachel Tucker brought back memories of her emergence in the BBC series I’d Do Anything with a performance of As Long As He Needs Me that far outshone anything she or any of the other contestants accomplished on that show, and which demonstrates how far she has come in the years since.

I would highly recommend Daniel Downing’s Almost Home to anyone who loves the stories of Hollywood’s Golden Age. No matter how well you know the life and works of Judy Garland, her story in Daniel Downing’s show sounds very familiar and touching. An evening of nostalgia is guaranteed.

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