Just In Time - The Judy Holliday Story
nytheatre.com review by Amber Gallery
August 18, 2010
How could one not be fascinated by Ms. Judy Holliday? A newcomer to Hollywood, she won an Oscar in 1951 for her comedic role in Born Yesterday—beating out the likes of Gloria Swanson and Bette Davis (remember All About Eve?). She is virtually unrecognizable from the role that made her famous, and although many know who she is, very few know much about her. She was a private, fame-shunning woman who never really even wanted to be an actress.
With Just in Time: The Judy Holliday Story, Bob Sloan has not only chosen well in subject matter, he has created a beautiful and accurate tribute to one of Hollywood's (and Broadway's) best. Just in Time strikes all the right chords. It is by turns hilarious and touching. Sloan lovingly handles the main points in Holliday's all too short life (she lost a battle with breast cancer at age 44). He cleverly weaves together a plethora of different occurrences, from popular game show appearances to the McCarthy hearings to Oscar night. Sloan is also at the helm, and he nicely choreographs his four performers with fast-paced scene and costume changes that never come off sloppy.
Although this is not a musical, there are a few lovely songs—two written by Holliday for her son and one penned by Sloan. G. Benjamin Swope creates marvelous lights out of what are surely limited resources. Tricia Barsamian's costumes and Ashley L. Ryan's hair design transport us back to the 1940s and 1950s. The characters really pop out of the plain backdrop—one or two costume pieces easily transforms a performer into one of many characters they take on.
And about the performers! Four solid, brilliant, and extraordinary actors bring this show to life. Marina Squerciati as Judy is stunning and lovable and perfectly portrays the sadness behind the facade of this comedic figure. But not to worry—her comedic skills are more than worthy to take on Holliday. Mary Gutzi, as Judy's mother Helen, with her beautiful singing voice and total immersion into the character, is heartbreaking. Catherine LeFrere, who plays every other female role from secretary to Katherine Hepburn, nails it every single time. I was excited whenever she entered because I knew I'd be laughing—loudly. Finally, Adam Harrington, who plays (at least) 12 different male roles, accomplishes the extraordinary feat of transforming himself so much from scene to scene that it was hard to believe he is only one actor. Both LeFrere and Harrington bring so much smart detail to each role that it never seems like shtick.
You may have trouble getting a hold of a ticket to Just in Time—word is it has been selling out every show. The one I attended was no different, and deservedly so. This show, with this cast and crew, deserves (at the very least) an off-Broadway run. With all its nostalgia, and talented team, it would even be a hit out on tour for those who cannot get to New York City. I feel fortunate to have seen it and hope as many others as possible get the same chance.