What! You've never heard of Judith Tuvim, the Jewish girl from Brooklyn with the IQ of 172, who took Broadway and Hollywood by storm in the 1950's. Perhaps that's because you've always known her as the actress, Judy Holliday, whose meteoric rise and fall is the subject of a new play by Bob Sloan.
"The Judy Holliday Story," debuting at the New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch from July 7 through August 14, is a play with music that celebrates the career of the original dumb blond, who rose from the Vanguard in Greenwich Village, to the lights of Broadway and beyond.
The life of Judy Holliday is a quintessential rags-to-riches Cinderella story that took a tragic detour. After graduating from high-school at the age of 16, she worked briefly as a switchboard operator at the renowned Mercury Theatre founded by Orson Welles. Soon after she met several other struggling and talented young performers and formed "The Revuers," a night-club act that included Betty Comden and Adolph Green who were to go on to fame as the duo that wrote screenplays for such films as "On The Town" with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, and the classic "Singin' In The Rain." Oh, and Lenny Bernstein just happened to be a part of this amazing group, as well.
Judy's talent was a standout and she headed for Hollywood with her mother in tow. Her big break came when she won the role of a lifetime, Billie Dawn, the archetypal dumb blond in "Born Yesterday." She was catapulted to stardom and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 1950. This relative newcomer to Hollywood was up against the likes of Gloria Swanson for "Sunset Boulevard," Eleanor Parker for "Caged," and both Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for "All About Eve." In 1957 Judy triumphed once again, this time on Broadway when she won the Tony for "Bells Are Ringing." At the height of her career she attracted the unwelcome attention of the F.B.I. that launched a secret investigation, "blacklisted" her and called her to testify before the House on Un-American Activities.
"Just In Time: The Judy Holliday Story" had a brief introductory run last year in the New York Fringe Festival where it received top accolades and played to sold-out audiences. The play has since been tweaked a bit by playwright, Bob Sloan. He has added some new scenes, songs and a new title "The Judy Holliday Story". Local audiences will have the opportunity to see the play that one critic called "the best show I saw at the Fringe this year...the red carpet event of the Festival." Please note that several performances have already sold out, so book early to avoid disappointment.
"The Judy Holliday Story"is directed by NJ Rep's Artistic Director, Suzanne Barabas, and musical direction is by Mark T. Evans. The play stars NJ Rep regular Pheonix Vaughn as Judy Holliday, Bonnie Black as her mother Helen, Catherine LeFrere as Betty Comden, Katherine Hepburn, Gloria Swanson, among others, and Adam Harrington as Adolf Green, Orson Welles, John Houseman, Tallulah Bankhead and other show biz luminaries.
"The Judy Holliday Story" chronicles and celebrates the life of this legendary star of a by-gone era. It is a buoyant Valentine to a versatile comic talent cut down in her prime.
Performances are Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00 pm; Saturdays at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm; Sundays at 2:00 pm, July 7 through August 14. Special reduced price previews are on Thursday, July 7 and Friday, July 8 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm.Opening night with reception is Saturday, July 9 at 8:00 pm. There is no matinee opening night. Tickets are $40; Previews are $35; Opening night with reception is $60. Discounts are available to seniors (65+), students (13-25), and groups of 10 or more. Additional performances can be scheduled on Thursday and Friday matinees or Sunday nights for groups of 40 or more.