Dallas — Janelle Lutz may just make a career out of playing Judy Garland. This Friday she takes the stage for the second time as the icon in Uptown Players’ season-opening production of Peter Quilter’s End of the Rainbow. It’s purely coincidental, of course, but Lutz is jumping at the chance to play her again. And this time it will be the real deal.
Lutz first played Judy Garland in The Boy from Oz, but she really only appeared onstage in the first act (but she did earn a Dallas Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum award). This time she embodies Judy for a full two hours in every single scene will be a different beast. But she has Judy in her bones and she’s ready for it.
Lutz is a homeschooled farmgirl from Hollister, Calif. She grew up participating in 4-H Club and raising sheep. A far cry from the tragic mess Judy Garland would become. Though she still claims she’s not from a small town.
“My dad used to say you weren’t from a small town if you could still get pizza delivered. And we could get pizza!”
And she could get to the theater, too. During high school she acted in the local theater, played piano, and performed in choir. It wasn’t until she got to college that she realized she could really sing.
After graduation she ventured to Dallas and has found a home and community here. Voice training in her college music program prepared her well for musicals and she’s been a hit here in Dallas. Growing up, Lutz was obsessed with old movies, actors, and TV shows. Dick Van Dyke, Cary Grant, and Audrey Hepburn were all regulars on her family’s TV. There is a cadence to her voice that calls upon a different generational style of speaking. Judy sneaks out here and there as Lutz admits she would happily wear all the vintage clothes from that era if she could.
“Those old movies and shows do influence some of my acting choices. It was a different way and style of talking and moving. There was definitely more of that in our house than Full House and Saved By the Bell.”
Janelle Lutz discussed her excitement about playing Judy Garland and the challenges that go into channeling such a well known icon.
TheaterJones: Is playing Judy Garland something you’re marketing yourself for?
Janelle Lutz: No! It was purely chance before. But maybe I can just keep playing her forever now. That would be fine with me.
Was it easy to recall her as a character, or did you have to relearn things?
It helped that I’d done this before, but this is different thing altogether being onstage so much and in every scene. Before I really wasn’t on that much. I definitely had to get back into how she talked, her movement and things like that.
This play has a lot of comedic moments, but she was really a very tragic figure. Is it hard to play her with the hope she has in this show of starting over and kicking her addiction knowing that she would ultimately fail?
I’ve never really thought about that. She was very funny. She had a sharp, quick tongue that often got her into trouble. But I just had to believe, as she did, that she was going to turn her life around. To have that hope that she did. She believed it over and over again.
Do you have any experience with addicts in your real life?
No, but I think I can tap into the idea that you must have something in order to function. On the most minute scale, I feel like I have to have Dr. Pepper before a show. I know that’s not the same thing, but in a way it’s like it’s in my head that I need it. I try to think about the mindset of an addicted person and find a way to relate that to my own life.
Are there other old actresses you’d like to try your hand at now that you’ve got Judy down?
Lucille Ball, for sure. That would be a dream. And Audrey Hepburn, of course!