REVIEW: Frances and Ethel – Oran Mor, Glasgow

Performing from the age of two, popping pills supplied by her mother at ten, surviving the scandal of her father’s indiscretions by moving from Michigan to Hollywood where she was signed by MGM at just 13 years old, and a lifetime of criticism about her looks, the sad and sorry private life of screen legend Judy Garland has proven to be fertile theatrical fodder over the years.

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David Cosgrove’s Frances and Ethel takes place in a shabby rehearsal room in New York on the eve of Garland’s legendary 1961 Carnegie Hall concert. With her old pal, pianist Sal, she reminisces on the events that have steered her to this point, chiefly the dysfunctional relationship with the woman she dubbed “the real Wicked Witch of the West”, her steely, ultra-ambitious mother, Ethel.

While Cosgrove’s short, sweet play offers no new insight into Garland’s life, it does win big with the casting of Frances Thorburn as Judy, Thorburn’s voice is eerily evocative of the legendary singer. Dubbed a mini-musical, in Oran Mor’s summer season, the production is rather light on musical numbers, but those it does feature are glorious. An engaging addition to the legend of Judy Garland.