Bailey As Garland: Good, Not Great

by Jeanne Belovitch

Female illusionist and singer Jim Bailey, who performed his tribute to Judy Garland last week at last week's kickoff of th Bradford Theatre Center, is better as himself, but sitill good as Garland.

Of course, there's nothing like the original, and Judy Garland devotees will be left yearning from Bailey's rendition from more of that Garland pain, anguish and vulnerability that seeped from her very being into the hearts of her audiences.

Similarly built, however, Bailey captures Garland's physical presence to a tee: the long this legs,narrow hips and wide waist dressed in the legendary narrow-fitting dress with sequined jacket is all Judy. In his performance, Bailey projects Judy's reticence, as well as her warmth, her love, her desire to please, and her gutsy determination. His staccato movements, especially when he touches his hair, are perfectly Judy.

Bailey opened the show with I Feel a Song Coming On and went into one of Garland's more famous numbers, The Man Who Got Away, which just didn't capture that Garland intensity and pain. Bailey never quite attained that Garland quaver in his voice.

But he recouped these failings in his next number, I'll Go My Way By Myself. Here, he was pure Garland. When he sang, "I'll face the unknown. I'll build a world of my own,"" Judy Garland's strength and sorrow rang clear. Bailey equalled this level of illusion in the The Trolley Song and Over The Raninbow, but he fell short in (Dear Mr Gable) You Made Me Love You, and for Me and My Gal.

As himself in the second half of his performance, Bailey's own voice sounded with strength and resonance. He captured the audience with Nothing Me Nov, The Rainbow Connection and I Made it Through the Rain, and closed the evening with New York, New York, one of his best songs.

As is common, opening nights have their problems. This performance suffered from technical difficulties which detracted from the reverberation in most of the songs performed.

Jim Bailey as Judy Garland is a good show. It's entertaining. It's a toe tapper. Many people in the audience were moved to giving Bailey a standing ovation. But it's not great.


Source: South End News, Boston, MA; 1984