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Around Town: Judy Garland coming to town

The “Hey, let’s put on a show!” atmosphere at the Roxy late one hot, sunny afternoon last week was fabulously fitting when you consider the title of the work-in-progress being tweaked inside.

The “Hey, let’s put on a show!” atmosphere at the Roxy late one hot, sunny afternoon last week was fabulously fitting when you consider the title of the work-in-progress being tweaked inside.

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s cast and crew were busy preparing for a show that celebrates Judy Garland, the legendary entertainer and screen icon.

“We’re welcoming Judy to Quadra Village,” quipped Brian Richmond, director of Judy! The Judy Garland Story, the musical tribute starring Tracey Moore that opens there on Thursday night.

Two dozen supporters, volunteers and board members toasted Judy’s arrival before a rehearsal with musical director Jan Stirling and arranger Al Vance. They were joined by drummer Damian Graham, bassist Brendan McGuigan and Matt McLean on trumpet and synthesizer on an elegant studio set with chaser lights illuminating a striking black-and-white checkerboard floor.

“What inspired us was the 1962 Judy Garland TV show,” explained Richmond, admitting he wasn’t a Judy Garland fan before he began working on the show written by longtime friend Paul Ledoux.

Familiar faces at the informal gathering included the show’s veteran choreographer Sylvia Hosie; dialect coach Iris MacGregor Bannerman; Shauna Baird, the actor-director who with her husband, businessman Michael Salomon, generously financed the company’s purchase of the Roxy last year; and her mother, retired Victoria councillor and “theatre devotee” Janet Baird.

“We’re relying on the audience knowing their Judy stuff,” laughed Hosie, explaining the impressionistic staging that will make it appear Moore is joined onstage by Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney.

It’s been a challenge lifting recognizable Garland moves from her films, Hosie said, adding: “Judy was so inventive and has her own timing. She syncopates syncopation.”

Theatregoers won’t see mere mimicry when Moore embodies the screen legend, explained the show’s star, who will belt out 26 tunes and is taking a “more editorial” approach.

“I’m trying to bring moments of her emotional truth and reminiscences so you’ll get a snapshot,” she said. “I hope you’ll get a pastiche of the actress. Her presence is made known.”

It’s worth noting that The Judy Garland Story is the 25th production Blue Bridge has mounted since its inception five years ago, and its first summer show being presented at the Roxy.

Shauna Baird said she hopes there will be many more in the historic movie theatre she’s been rolling up her sleeves to enhance, from numbering seats to painting squares on Patricia O’Reilly’s set.

“I love the theatre. I’m a theatre junkie,” laughs Baird, who moved back to Victoria after living in Paris for seven years. She was also involved in acquiring and renovating Calgary’s historic Grand Theatre for the Alberta city’s Theatre Junction in 2005.

“I’ll do whatever needs doing.”

Judy! The Judy Garland Story previews Tuesday and Wednesday, opens Thursday and continues through July 27 at the Roxy, 2657 Quadra St.

Tickets, $26.25 to $42, are available in person, at ticketrocket.org and 250-590-6291.