She survived a cyclone in “The Wizard of Oz,” but Judy Garland could not survive the train wreck that was her adult life, one devastated by alcohol and drug abuse, and by the pressures of the kind of superstardom we take for granted today. The last few months before Garland succumbed at age 47 are dramatized in Peter Quilter’s sometimes harrowing End of the Rainbow. As Garland in Intrepid Theatre Co.’s production downtown, Eileen Bowman knocks it out of the park. Her alternating flammability and vulnerability as the beloved but broken Judy transcends an overlong script with many foreseeable plot turns. And when she becomes Judy the front-and-center performer she belts out standards like “Come Rain or Come Shine” with deep-seated passion and swirling torment, all without doing a caricatured Garland impersonation. Jeffrey Jones (as self-serving fiancé Mickey Deans) and Cris O’Bryon (as Garland’s pianist for the London engagement dramatized in the play) offer sturdy support. This is, however, Bowman’s gig and, from somewhere beyond the rainbow, the immortal Judy Garland’s too.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat