Typhoon Judy Takes Rehoboth by Storm
I’d like to make a motion to change the clichéd line “If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, you’re lucky enough” to “If you’re lucky enough to be at the beach, and in the sold-out audience of Typhoon Judy starring Christopher Peterson, you’re lucky enough.”
Quite simply, Peterson’s much bravoed performance as Judy Garland was magical. At least it was for the majority of those in attendance who understood and appreciated the nuances of what they were witnessing. This was not the wise-cracking, eager to break the fourth wall, mingle with microphone in the crowd Christopher Peterson that has been the staple of his tenure as the star of Eyecons in Rehoboth and Key West.
Far from it.
This was the performance of someone who has spent close to 25 years on stage, backstage, and in the wings. This was the performance of someone who knows first-hand the kick-in-your gut feeling of nerve-wracking anticipation that shakes your soul as every line from every page of the script bounces around your head nano-seconds before the curtain opens. This was the performance of someone who checks their own persona at the stage door before stepping into the soul of the character they are about to display under a spotlight, on stage, in a dark theater before a house packed full of strangers—without a moment of hesitation.
This was the performance of a truly seasoned professional.
For those not fortunate enough to have witnessed Peterson’s dazzling performance on the night of Saturday, July 28 at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center, here’s a quick synopsis: Hong Kong. 1964. Raging typhoon. Garland (in a coma following her first serious suicide attempt) arrives for soundcheck for a show at a small nightclub. All the action takes place in Garland’s head. Only the audience knows her plight—for in her comatose dream—she is oblivious to reality. There are only two characters on stage, she and the pianist (perfectly played by the extremely talented Jerry Birl).
In two acts, between barbs thrown at the silent and suffering pianist, a handful of funny one-liners, and a wide variety of expertly performed and mesmerizing musical numbers, Garland recants the ups and downs (mostly downs) of her roller-coaster life with acerbic wit, pathos and a few genuinely heartbreaking moments.
Her dialogue covers love, loss, family, friends, pills, booze, on-stage highs and off-stage lows, betrayal and defiance, despair and joy. At the end of the last act, she rallies beyond her depression and, like the trooper she was in real life, she delivers a superstar quality mini-concert (complete with a gigantic JUDY in lights backdrop) to the delight of the audience.
I must stress that the larger than life musical numbers, performed of course by Peterson in his own transformative voice, were utterly spellbinding and could have made for a spectacular show on their own. But why settle only for the sweet pink icing when there’s so much delicious cake just beneath?
The production (created by Christopher Peterson and playwright Darrin Hagen, arranged by Jim Rice and produced by Bruce Pfeufer and Mini Bear Graphics) is golden—pure gold really—if taken in context with the current Judy fever that is sweeping the country. In fact, the event (which was generously and wildly appreciatively underwritten by Bruce Pfeufer) grossed some $58,000 dollars for CAMP Rehoboth!
If there’s any truth to the rumor that Peterson may be working to bring Typhoon Judy back to Rehoboth for an extended run at some point in the near future, then we will be the ones who’ll know where Oz is. It will be on stage at whatever theater or location he manages to perform in.
Until then, if you were lucky enough to have seen Typhoon Judy, just sit back and reminisce over the experience with the realization that that was about as close to seeing the real Judy Garland perform live as you’re going to get.
If that won’t get you over that elusive rainbow, nothing will.
Michael Sprouse is an acclaimed Visual Artist, Arts Journalist and Creative Professional. More About Michael Sprouse