Get Happy: Goodspeed’s Judy Garland Musical Opens Tonight

News   Get Happy: Goodspeed’s Judy Garland Musical Opens Tonight
Ruby Rakos plays Judy in the Broadway-aimed Chasing Rainbows.
Ruby Rakos, Michael Wartella and Claire Griffin in Flat Rock Playhouse&#39;s 2015 production of <i>Chasing Rainbows</i>
Ruby Rakos, Michael Wartella and Claire Griffin in Flat Rock Playhouse's 2015 production of Chasing Rainbows Alyssa Bouma

Ruby Rakos plays screen and concert goddess Judy Garland in the new musical Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz , which officially opens October 5 at Goodspeed Musicals before a hoped-for Broadway transfer.

With a book by Marc Acito and a score consisting of classic period songs, the show tells the story of Garland's childhood up to the time she is cast as Dorothy in the film classic The Wizard of Oz.

Chasing Rainbows began previews September 16 and is scheduled to run through November 27 at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT.

Rakos starred in last fall's developmental world premiere at Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina.

In addition to Rakos, who plays the central role of Frances Gumm, the girl who grows up to be Judy Garland, other principal roles are being played by Kevin Earley, who appeared in the Broadway productions of A Tale of Two Cities, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Les Misérables and Goodspeed’s production of Annie Get Your Gun, as Frank Gumm. Sally Wilfert, who appeared on Broadway in Assassins and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is Ethel Gumm. Mickey Rooney is played by Michael Wartella, who appeared in the Broadway productions of Tuck Everlasting and Wicked.

Michael McCormick, who has performed in a dozen Broadway productions including Chaplin, Elf, Curtains, Kiss of the Spider Woman and the original production of Oliver!, plays L.B. Mayer. Ma Lawlor and Kay Koverman are played by Karen Mason, whose Broadway credits include Wonderland, Hairspray and Mamma Mia! Roger Edens and George Jessel are played by Gary Milner, who appeared in the Broadway production of Doctor Zhivago. Ella Briggs, who made her Goodspeed debut in last season’s A Wonderful Life, plays Baby Frances Gumm. Young Virginia Gumm is played by Piper Birney, who appeared in the national tour of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Shirley Temple is played by Lea Mancarella.

The ensemble includes Lissa deGuzman, Jennifer Evans, Berklea Going, Claire Griffin, Jordana Grolnick, Michael Hartung, Dan Higgins, Lucy Horton, Bryan Thomas Hunt, Andrea Laxton, Danny Lindgren and Jesse Sharp. The swings are Joseph Fierberg and Elise Mestichelli.

Here is a montage of clips from the show:

Chasing Rainbows is directed by Tyne Rafaeli and choreographed by Chris Bailey.

Scenic design is by Kristen Robinson, who has designed for many theatres across the country and served as associate set designer for Broadway’s The Gin Game. Costumes are designed by Elizabeth Caitlin Ward. Ward designed the West End production of Women On the Verge… and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Costume Design for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Cymbeline.

Lighting design is by Ken Billington, who has designed nearly 100 Broadway productions, including Dames at Sea, Amazing Grace, The Drowsy Chaperone, Annie, Chicago (Tony Award for Best Lighting Design) and Sweeney Todd. He has designed a dozen Goodspeed productions, including They All Laughed; Red, Hot & Blue; The Story of My Life; Amazing Grace; and A Sign of the Times. Sound design is by Jay Hilton, who is in his 31st season at Goodspeed.

Hair and wig design are by Mark Adam Rampmeyer, whose work was seen at The Goodspeed in Bye Bye Birdie, Anything Goes, La Cage aux Folles, Guys and Dolls, Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn and The Most Happy Fella, to name a few. On Broadway, he designed West Side Story, Lysistrata Jones and The Farnsworth Invention.

The music director for Chasing Rainbows is Michael O’Flaherty, who is in his 25th season as Goodspeed’s resident music director. Bill Thomas is assistant music director. Orchestrations are provided by Dan DeLange, who has orchestrated dozens of musicals for Goodspeed, including this season’s Anything Goes and Bye Bye Birdie. Casting for Chasing Rainbows is by Paul Hardt of SH Entertainment.

The show is produced by the New York-based Tina Marie Casamento Libby.

The show uses 1930s music from the EMI/Feist Robbins catalog. Musical arrangements are by David Libby, with additional music by Libby and additional lyrics by Casamento/Acito/Libby.

Tickets are available through the Goodspeed box office at (860) 873-8668 or online at

Here is a mini documentary assembled by Goodspeed for the show:

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