Arundel Barn Theatre - Arundel, ME
By Joe Sheehan
features@seacoastonline.com
June 12, 2008

If you appreciate a simpler time — back when you could understand a song's lyrics and its hummable music nestled into your brain — the initial offering of Arundel Barn's Theater 2008 season is the show for you. "Babes in Hollywood" highlights the twin rollercoaster lives and careers of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

The opening number says it all, "That's Entertainment" and for two hours, including intermission, that's exactly what it is. Four hard-working young talents interchange the roles of Judy and Mickey beginning six and seven decades ago when they first stepped on the professional stage. Judy, pushed by an ambitious mother, and Mickey, the son of touring vaudevillians, find their separate ways to Hollywood where they would soon become America's on-screen sweethearts. The show traces their careers through one standard after another with some connective narrative in between.

A melancholy Garland sang almost every song wrapped in tears, while Rooney was her polar opposite, hyperactive on the hustle and always trying to put something together for public approval.

Billy Marshall, playing the young Rooney, has eyes that sparkle all the way to the back row and his happy eager tenor captures some of what was an engaging youthful Rooney essence, while Daniel Fenaughty, plays the more mature Mickey and manages to portray some of the sadness that washed over into the talented Rooney's life.

As for the female members of the cast, Katie Mulholland beautifully sings the Garland theme song, "Over the Rainbow" while in the second act Rebecca Cesario shows Garland as a seasoned concert performer, and award-winning television host. She absolutely knocks "The Man That Got Away" right out of the ballpark.

It should be noted that the narrative, provided sequentially by the cast members, does not spare the off-screen lives of Garland and Rooney. Their many marriages and drug addictions are touched on but the show is a celebration, and two more stage-seasoned ladies deserve special credit.

First, there is the longtime Arundel Barn Executive Producer Adrienne Wilson Grant, who for the 11th year of staging all sorts of productions at the venerable barn, has once again kicked off her season with an audience-appealing show.

And then there is the show's director Karen Babcock, who as a young aspiring actress and dancer on Broadway actually worked with Rooney in his final theater tour.

If your musical tastes run to old standbys, "Babes in Hollywood" will more than please your palate. There are 42 of them and almost as many costume changes from Johnny Mercer's World War II hit, "On the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe" to the slam-bang show's finale "Grand Old Flag." There is bound to be one or more tunes in this show that will touch a special chord in every theater-goer, regardless of age.

Though the show is in a barn, this is no farmyard production. It's a bright and pleasant trip down memory lane, a welcome if momentary diversion from the variety of ills now plaguing our daily lives. Go see it, it's a dandy of a show.


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