Spotlight on Judy

Krista Lenn Johnson, who plays one of three version of Judy Garland in the upcoming fundraising presentation of “Judy, Judy, Judy,” also wrote the script, adapted from an early production a number of years ago, also a fundraiser for the Paramount. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Krista Lenn Johnson, who plays one of three version of Judy Garland in the upcoming fundraising presentation of “Judy, Judy, Judy,” also wrote the script, adapted from an early production a number of years ago, also a fundraiser for the Paramount. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

There was — is — something special about Judy Garland. A voice that could resonate through both auditorium halls and emotions at once, Garland’s voice struck a chord with anybody who called themselves her fans.

It is that very centerpiece that cast and direction of the production of “Judy, Judy, Judy!” is trying to bring across when it is presented on March 14 and 15 as a fundraiser for the Paramount.

ah.01.09.b“I want to give a picture of Judy that’s different,” said Krista Lenn Johnson, who is portraying one of the three versions of Judy Garland: Concert Judy. “We highlight aspects of her life that were beautifully and aspects that were not so great, but it’s the truth.”

The idea for the fundraiser came from executive director of the Austin Area Commission for the Arts Jennie Knoebel ,who approached director Jerry Girton about revisiting the production that first saw the fundraising stage for the Paramount stage a number of years ago.

That incantation of “Judy, Judy, Judy!” was moreless a narrative of aspects of Garland’s life. If it was going to be done this time it would be different.

“There was a narrator and then there were songs,” Girton said. “They weren’t related. I was in it and I don’t think we even went to a rehearsal. We should have Judy talk about her life in monologues and then do the songs.”

The script was written by Johnson who has immersed herself in the life of Garland. Johnson said she simply wants to portray a version of Garland that is open and factual.

Which shouldn’t be hard considering Garland wore her own life on her sleeve.

“That’s what set her apart,” Johnson said. “She just simply was. It wasn’t an act, she wasn’t pretending.”

Garland had a presence on stage that took people away from their lives. According to many of her fans, including Johnson, Garland had the ability to sweep her audience away with her, raising them to the same emotional plane she went to.

“You appreciate her realness,” Johnson said. “You appreciate her openness. She was speaking her soul and that’s a brave thing to do.”

And of course there were the songs. In a time when there were plenty of voices shining on stage and screen, hers was the one many remember the most.

Known as One-Take Judy for her ability to do movie scenes in one take, Garland’s voice was distinctive. Musical director Coni Nelson said that all the songs featured in “Judy, Judy, Judy!” are songs that not only are familiar, but that resonate.

“Every song here has a beautiful melody,” Nelson said. “They carry you away. So many singers you don’t remember, but Judy was unique that after three notes you knew who she was.”

The Minnesota-native Garland also had the charisma, much like Carol Burnett, to interact with her fans, something that will also be reflected by Johnson throughout “Judy, Judy, Judy!” who will interact with the Paramount crowd.

It was a special quality few have.

“There’s an invisible fourth wall that singers and actors had with their audience that they didn’t cross,” Johnson said. “But not Judy. She was on stage and they were in the audience and their two worlds met. It was a relationship.”

Performance times are 7:30 p.m. on both March 14 and 15 with an added 2 p.m. matinee on the 15. All funds raised from the show will be donated to the Paramount. Tickets are $20.

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