Exclusive: Judy Garland Musical to Follow the Yellow-Brick Road to Broadway

News   Exclusive: Judy Garland Musical to Follow the Yellow-Brick Road to Broadway
 
Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz, a new musical about the early life of beloved film star Judy Garland, is aiming to transfer to Broadway in 2017 following its fall 2016 production at Goodspeed Opera House that was announced just 24 hours ago.

Lead producer Tina Marie Casamento Libby, who conceived the show six years go, told Playbill.com that she already has a Broadway general manager and some investors on board and is gathering more in preparation for the Main Stem production.

Producer Libby explained, "[Judy Garland] once said, 'The history of my life is in my songs,' and that's the germ of our idea: to tell her story, but in the most loving and honest way. This show is bigger than a dream come true for me. I love the music, I love 'The Wizard of Oz' and I love her."

Judy Garland
Judy Garland

The show will be a book musical that traces Garland's life from small-town girlhood to her performance in the 1939 Hollywood classic "The Wizard of Oz." Marc Acito (Allegiance) is writing the book.

"Kids today may not all know who Judy was," Libby said, "but they know who Dorothy is, and they love her."

Though there will be some original music by Libby's husband David Libby, the show will take its cue from the Garland quote, "The history of my life is in my songs," and consist of 1930s standards, many of which were sung and/or recorded by Garland, including "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "You Made Me Love You," "Everybody Sing," "Meet the Beat of My Heart" and, of course, "Over the Rainbow." Libby said she obtained the stage rights to the songs from Sony, Warner Music and others.

No Broadway theatre, cast or specific dates have been announced.

Though Garland (1922-1969) never appeared in a Broadway musical, she enjoyed several legendary concert performances at the Palace Theatre in the 1950s and 1960s, and won a special Tony Award in 1952. In many of her Hollywood films, including "Babes in Arms," "Ziegfeld Girl," "Babes on Broadway," "For Me and My Gal," "Easter Parade" and "Summer Stock," she was depicted as a Broadway-style stage entertainer. In 2012 she was the subject of End of the Rainbow, a play with music that depicted the sad last period of her life.

"We all know what happened to her in that sad part of her life," Libby said of Garland's five marriages and drug overdose death. "Our show talks about the buoyant young girl who everybody to this day loves."

Libby said she's had the idea for the show since she was a teenager. "I read all the biographies of Judy and was struck by the story of her family. And I thought, 'Somebody has to do this as a musical!'"

Tina Marie Casamento Libby
Tina Marie Casamento Libby

Judy and Her Father
Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm (known to her family as Baby Gumm) in Minnesota to Ethel and Frank Gumm. "Her father was a closeted gay man, and while her parents loved one another, there just wasn't any chemistry." They operated a small theatre and put young Frances into show business singing with her two sisters and tried to get them into the movies. "I think Judy thought, 'If I can just get this MGM contract, they will stay together,'" Libby said. But shortly after she got the contract, her father died. "That's such an important part of her story," Libby said. "How much she loved him and how much she tried to find someone like him."

Garland's family and friends, like Mickey Rooney, Roger Edens and Kay Koverman, are all characters in Chasing Rainbows.

Wizard of Oz and Garland historian John Fricke is serving as consultant on the project.

Always Chasing Rainbows was developed at the Goodspeed writers' barn in January 2014, followed by a spring 2014 reading at Belmont University in Nashville and a fall 2014 reading at the former New World Stages in New York, as reported by Playbill.com at the time.

The next step for the show will be a developmental production planned for Nov. 27-Dec. 19 at the Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina, to be staged by Jeff Whiting, under the artistic direction of Lisa Bryant. In that production, 19-year-old Ruby Rakos will play Judy. The remainder of the cast for that production is expected to be announced shortly. The creative team will then have nine months to do any needed rewrites before the fully staged production Sept. 16–Nov. 27, 2016, at Goodspeed Musicals mainstage in East Haddam, CT, which served as the launching pad for Broadway classics Annie and Man of La Mancha.

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