Review: ‘Judy Garland: A Star Is Born’ at Signature Theatre

Signature Theatre’s Cabaret Series is a relaxed affair. Pull up a chair and put your elbows on the table because Awa Sal Secka and Katie Mariko Murray are going to make you feel right at home. The two singers take the audience through nineteen songs from the Judy Garland songbook but then add a whole lot more. Historical references about Judy’s life narrate and lead into the songs, providing a whole new way to listen.

Cabaret Series Director Matthew Gardiner has assembled the evening without urgency. The simple black box of The ARK at Signature has become a larger-than-life living room. It’s where a good storyteller can shine.

There’s an intimacy with the audience that is as fresh as easy conversation. Ordinary things unwind like “The Trolley Song” from the film Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), sung with vigor and exquisite nuance by Katie Mariko Murray and backed up by a delightful triangle and cowbell provided by Awa Sal Secka. “How About You” from Babes on Broadway (1941) and “I Don’t Care” from the romantic comedy film In the Good Old Summertime (1949) show off Murray’s witty ways to connect to an audience. “I Love A Piano” from Easter Parade (1948) creates a dialogue between Pianist and Music Director Chris Urquiaga and Awa Sal Secka. Urquiaga’s full torso head bob is accented by lighting by Jonathan Magg as the “long-haired genius plays.” Sal Secka sings the lyric, swipes an arm around his shoulder and beams through the song. It’s effortless to happily ride along.

Duet selections have a lovely balance. “Over the Rainbow” and “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead”/”The Jitterbug” from The Wizard of Oz (1939) are perhaps the most familiar of Garland’s songs and Judy Garland: A Star is Born re-introduces others less well known today. Katie Mariko Murray noted that “The Jitterbug” was removed from the final cut of The Wizard of Oz but this song, and several others, makes you want to find out more. Born in 1922 as Frances Ethel Gumm, Judy Garland had a 45-year career and profound professional success, but she experienced many struggles in her personal life. The brilliant performers in Judy Garland: A Star is Born make Judy someone you can feel incredibly close to.

Running Time: One hour and 15 minutes, with no intermission.

Judy Garland: A Star is Born plays through January 26, 2019, at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington VA.  For tickets, call (703) 820-9771 or go online.

Bass, Bill Hones; Sound Mixer, Sarah Speck

Note: Signature will present a federal government employee night for the January 23rd performance of Judy Garland: A Star Is Born. The offer includes a discounted ticket price and a complimentary glass of wine or beer (or non-alcoholic beverage). Purchase your ticket online and present a government ID at the box office. Maximum of four tickets per federal employee.
Ticket link and show details
Click here to see our complete list of ticket discounts for furloughed government employees

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Jane Franklin
Jane Franklin received a MFA from The Ohio State University as a University Fellow and certification from the Laban/Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies. Jane Franklin’s choreography has been presented at multiple venues and festivals in the mid-Atlantic region and southwestern US and internationally in the UK and in Mexico. A recipient of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region Creative Communities Award, Jane has developed innovative and collaborative projects combining dancers with the round wall skateboarding community, with a life size kinetic sculpture, with the architecture of a specific site, with dogs & owners, and with interactive live video and sound for numerous public art projects.