By Coco Mault
“I can’t even begin to know what it’s like to be a legend,” said actress Tracie Bennett. “And I’m not even going to pretend I know. All I can do is do my job.” Bennett recently visited the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, in preparation for her upcoming January run of the show End of the Rainbow, in which she portrays Minnesota’s own Judy Garland in the later years of the star’s career.
The American production of End of the Rainbow, which begins January 2012, will also be Bennett’s working debut in America and, because it is in Judy Garland’s birth-state, Bennett mentioned feeling some pangs of nervousness. But she doesn’t let her nerves get the best of her.
“You can’t afford to be frightened of things, otherwise why get out of bed?”
Peter Quilter’s End of the Rainbow follows Judy Garland during the weeks leading up to her death — days of rigorous rehearsals and endless schedules, all made more tumultuous under the confluence of drugs and alcohol.
Though in real life Bennett bears little resemblance to Garland (she is a petite blond with an attractively chiseled face to Garland’s brunette and doughy features), Bennett truly embodies the character onstage. And even though Bennett declared that she “can’t begin to understand what it’s like to be Judy Garland,” she does consider her job to be a vessel for the words of the script.
“I’m not even a singer. But I put a wig on and I’m a vessel,” Bennett says. The short, dark brown wig may certainly help her get into character, but she’s a singer all right, belting out several songs during the show including “The Man That Got Away,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “The Trolley Song” and “Over The Rainbow.”
Bennett is quick to point out that the show takes dramatic and poetic license, but there is something very truthful to the machine that is fame, which was a startling factor early on in Bennett’s own career.
“I was never taught about fame in drama school,” she said.
Bennett is not only a well-known stage actress in the UK, but she has also worked extensively in film and television. This is an interesting parallel between Bennett’s life and Garland’s, and it’s something that Bennett has used to carefully consider the life of the character she is portraying.
“People are curious about the end of Garland’s life, but this isn’t a car crash — I want the human to come through,” she said. And so not only does End of the Rainbow provide an intimate look into the life of an icon, it does an impressive job of depicting the price of fame.
Peter Quilter’s End of the Rainbow, directed by Terry Johnson, starring Tracie Bennett received rave reviews during its London Run in February 2010. The show will be making its American debut at the Guthrie Theater beginning Jan. 28 and running through March 11, 2012.