From Judy to Bette @ Edfringe 2019


Rebecca Perry Productions

Judy Garland. Lucille Ball. Bette Davis. Betty Hutton. Trailblazers refusing to be “just another ingénue” during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Weaving scandalous headlines, famous songs and comedy gold, journey through the groundbreaking careers of screen legends of yesteryear.

Fresh from selling out 20+ cities worldwide, this solo show is created and performed by triple BroadwayWorld award-winner Rebecca Perry (Stage/TV’s Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl; ★★★★★ 2015 EdFringe sell-out run).


Although I sense a lot of positivity I also feel that there is a darker aspect in the way that the Stars of Old Hollywood had to negotiate the studios. Do you dwell on this tension, or are you aiming for a celebratory story of success against the odds?

I absolutely acknowledge the tension they had in their negotiations, and use that as a launchpad to demonstrate how it brought to light that the system was flawed, and that Bette Davis was the first person to be the change she wished to see in it all.

The show certainly has a celebratory air about it; we really do keep them laughing and toes tapping, but the scandalous headlines, aka the causes of those celebrations, aren’t ignored – they are used to show how impressive it is that these women chose to fight an uphill battle.

Particularly when dealing with an era gone by, I think it is important to keep the show rooted in honesty, and to show why it is so important that these women left Hollywood in a better place than they found it. They set the stage for change.

FJTB Edited shot 5Can you see any connections between the way that these stars were treated and the contemporary concerns of feminism? I notice that you mention ‘body positivity’, for example… has much changed across the decades in the treatment of women in the movies?

To be honest, I don’t think it has changed enough, and I draw quite a few parallels between what was going on in the ‘30s and what is going on now. At the same time, what’s wonderful is I can point out how these women fought similar battles without the support of a movement, or even the idea of equality behind them, which is not only impressive, but also set the stage for equal treatment of both sexes to then become a movement.

All four of the women I portray in the show were very set on being anything other than the stereotypical ingenue that most women were in the movies, and they all did their part on expanding the idea of what a female lead could be in the ‘30s and ‘40s. They proved that comedic actresses also deserved to be the lead, that skilled, talented women were more important than a pretty face, and whether they knew it or not, they started opening up the scope of what female actresses could do or be in cinema and on television. All were considered pioneers of their craft and where they began the fight – and the industry has given some ground since – we continue that move forward today.

FJTB Edited shot 4What has inspired you to take this walk into past glamour?

My grandmother was my babysitter when I was a kid and so while other kids were watching exclusively 90’s television, I was exposed early to the wonderful world of MGM movie musicals, a generation of cinema that doesn’t exist anymore and can’t be replicated. Big studios, big budgets and big frilly costumes – a time in cinematic history where everyone was a triple threat, where big dance breaks were mandatory and where there was no such thing as too many songs!

They just don’t make them like they used to. There’s a reason we still cherish The Wizard of Oz and why Meet Me in St. Louis is still a Christmas family favourite. We quote Bette Davis now in the way we’ll probably be quoting Meryl Streep eighty years from now. There was just something so magical about that era. There’s a reason they call it the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema!

The reason I wrote the show is there are lessons we can take from movies ninety years ago that we still relate to, that shine a light on things we are dealing with in society today. But don’t worry – I entertain you too!

How does feminism impact on the show’s dramaturgy: how easy is it to use the traditional structure of the solo show to explore feminist ideals?

Since this is a show that chronicles four women who achieved four very different things, it actually fits into my personal style of solo show performance. For example, in the last two shows I brought to Edinburgh, I’m not just one person talking – I play multiple characters jumping through space and time.

My last show had me playing twenty characters, including chimpanzees! If anything, it has been enjoyable to focus and zone in on four women – to get to know them. Although they took different paths, they achieved the same thing – making Hollywood a better place for women to work. To be honest the heart of the show was easy to find – it was already there thanks to them.

You’ve been coming to the Fringe for a few years now: what is it that keeps you coming back – and are there any problems with it in your experience?

The Fringe is an incredible experience. It is fun and eye-opening to perform at, and fun to be an audience member in when I’m not performing, but it is also an international platform for theatre, and it allows me to showcase my work to presenters from around the world – that doesn’t happen every day. I’ve been able to foster relationships with companies and theatres that I never would have met otherwise.
I also love that it’s open to everybody; if you’ve got a show that you’re passionate about performing – bring it! However, one con I’d say is, I do think that if your production has a large cast or needs a lot of manpower, price becomes a barrier.

At this point it’s much more feasible for a smaller productions, or one person comedy acts, to get here. As a Canadian, because of the distance I’m travelling, I require grants and fundraising even to get to Scotland, to cover the expense of transporting & housing myself, my musician, and my team, small as it is.

I also think that although comedy is valuable and important, I hope to see theatre and musicals treated at the festival as though they are just as important, which doesn’t always happen when a big splashy celeb decides to partake in the festival.

That said, I keep coming back because this Fringe is like no other festival in the world. I have been exposed to niche forms of theatre, dance, circus and cabaret that I would not otherwise have the pleasure of discovering.

Can you tell what made you pick the particular stars that you have chosen for the show?

These women were unapologetically themselves, marching to the beat of their own drum and not confining themselves to the boxes Hollywood wanted to put them in. Despite fat-cat producers telling them what they should be doing, they were fighting the good fight at the forefront of their field.

Bette Davis was a very skilled dramatic actor, Judy Garland could sing circles around her contemporaries, Betty Hutton proved that you could still be a lead and still be a clown, and Lucy had too many firsts to list here! I think my favourite is she was the first women to own her own studio! I don’t think their stories should ever be lost to history’s pages.

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