Saturday, February 18, 2017

Judy Garland and Bette Midler On Stage-

Somewhere Over The Rose Sparkles

                                   Reviewed by Doc Lawrence

Music has the transcendent power to stimulate emotions. Love is more than a word when part of a song that is totally associated with a particularly accomplished singer. Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and Bette Midler’s “The Rose,” forever belong to them as extensions of their everlasting souls. Kathy Halenda’s performance of the show she created, Somewhere Over The Rose, at Stone Mountain’s heralded ART Station Theatre brings the timeless songs of these two legends to the stage and for two hours, Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” and Janis from “The Rose” were there in spirit, serenading a very receptive audience.

Somewhere Over the Rose is described as a celebration of the songs, styles and stories of these two incredible yet completely different American icons. Judy Garland, whose life and career was plagued with tragedy, is long gone while Bette Midler is, to say the least, still with us, outrageously entertaining and refreshingly unpredictable. Bejeweled Kathy Halenda, dressed in sequined costumes, asks the question: what could these two stars possibly have in common? Her answers include timeless songs propelled by her amazing mezzo voice, fascinating stories, similarities and a few coincidences that take you on a sophisticated and sassy adventure.

Opening with a Judy Garland classic, “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” from the movie “Listen, Darling” (1938), the lyrics introduce with a little irony, the singer/actress:

Never could carry a tune, never knew where to start
You came along when everything was wrong and put a song in my heart
Dear when you smiled at me, I heard a melody
It haunted me from the start
Something inside of me started a symphony
Zing! Went the strings of my heart.

 Bette Midler is seamlessly juxtaposed with Ms. Garland. To this day, Ms. Midler excels on the screen, belts out classic recordings like “From A Distance,” and leaves concert audiences breathless. There are heartless demons around both and in Ms. Garland’s case, they overwhelmed her at the tender age of 47. Midler, who eschews boundaries, has dealt with hers and remains as irreverent and gloriously independent as any superstar around today.

As the first verse of  “The Rose” began, there was a measurable sigh from the audience:

Its the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
Its the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
Its the one who won't be taking, who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live.

Many remember ART Station’s raucous production of Sophie Tucker: Last of the Red Hot Mama’s also starring Kathy Halenda. Somewhere Over The Rose is equally entertaining and more nostalgic. There are moments of hilarity, but the songs take us back to special memories indelibly fixed in American culture. To no one’s surprise, Patrick Hutchcison’s rich piano accompaniment is flawless.

Kathy Halenda took a moment during her performance to ask that we reflect an important message in “From a Distance,” a Bette Midler signature song: “God is watching us.” Indeed.

Continuing through February 22. 770-469-1105;

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