The Judy Garland Christmas Special

As showbiz legend has it, the holiday episode of Judy Garland’s 1963-64 TV variety show—a kitschfest showcasing her three kids (for you straight guys, that would be Liza Minnelli and Lorna and Joey Luft), taped on a set done up to resemble her Malibu home—was almost derailed by her drinking. Open Circle’s evergreen The Judy Garland Christmas Special imagines the dress rehearsal, with Troy Mink as Judy sloshing around hallucinating as everyone tries to go on with the show around her. Craig Trolli skewers Liza’s trembling, big-eyed vacuousness and pit-bull performing ambition, and John McKenna’s vocal impersonation of Judy’s guest crooner Jack Jones is even more disturbingly, hilariously dead-on than ever. But that’s just the first half. After intermission, a DVD of the actual episode is screened with live commentary by Mink in character. On that broadcast, Judy more or less holds it together; she’s a trouper every moment. What’s most startling, you come to realize, is how little Open Circle’s high-camp version exaggerates the episode’s almost surreal cheesiness. GAVIN BORCHERT

Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Starts: Nov. 26. Continues through Dec. 18, 2010

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