Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Somewhere Over the Rose
Florida Studio Theatre

Also see Bill's review of The Secret Garden Sarasota Ballet

Kathy Halenda
Sarasota audience favorite Kathy Halenda returns to Florida Studio Theatre with her new show Somewhere Over the Rose, a tribute in song to Judy Garland and Bette Midler. Ms. Halenda specializes in brassy broads—she has previously brought her shows Last of the Red Hot Mamas, a salute to Sophie Tucker, and Brassy Broads of Broadway to the area to great acclaim. The idea of combining Judy Garland and Bette Midler might seem strange at first. Their careers barely overlapped; Judy was already dead by the time Bette was achieving her first taste of success at the Continental Baths. But our star shows us more parallels than we might suspect, especially the adoration of a gay male fan base. The stories work to give the afternoon or evening a cohesive arc.

All the expected songs are present and accounted for; "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart," "The Trolley Song," "The Man That Got Away" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for Garland; "Friends," "Wind Beneath My Wings," "From a Distance" and "The Rose" for Midler. Add in a couple of unexpected treats like "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" and "Old Devil Moon" (Garland) and "Stuff Like That There" (Midler) and you have the outline for a delightful two hours.

Kathy Halenda is a fine singer, completely true of pitch and able to project lyrics clearly. On "Johnny One Note" she is able to do full justice to these wonderful lyrics by Lorenz Hart

Got in Aida,
indeed a great chance to be brave
He took his one note
Howled like the North Wind
Brought forth wind that made critics rave,
While Verdi turned round in his grave!

Take it from someone who has sung this song in public more than a few times—it is not that easy. She is only lightly miked, just enough to give a volume push, much more pleasurable than depending on amplification to do the heavy work for you. Ms. Halenda is a confident performer who is not afraid to deliver her own versions of the songs, not imitating the great ladies to whom she is paying homage. If she had tried she would have failed, since both of these performers are or were indelibly unique. What she does accomplish is a summoning up of -memories for the audience. I came home to sit down with some early Judy Garland, although I must admit that I have been working my way through the "Judy Garland: The Decca Masters" multi CD set for over a week now.

Pianist Jim Prosser is an able accompanist as he has been for Ms. Halenda in previous appearances.

Florida Studio Theatre presents Somewhere Over the Rose, through August 31, 2014, at the John C. Court Cabaret, 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit

Photo: Courtesy Florida Studio Theatre

--William S. Oser

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