'Mickey and Judy' Created, Written and Acted by Michael Hughes
Onstage at Port Hope's Capitol Theatre, 20 Queen Street.
Credit: Sam Moffatt. Pictured: Michael Hughes
Michael Hughes can sing! And tell stories to make us laugh from the heart! And remain humble and appreciative!
In his youth, Creator Michael Hughes (nicknamed ‘Mickey’) developed a deep affection for the gifted yet tormented artist Judy Garland. He fondly recalled how watching the timeless classic ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with his family many years ago was a touchstone to enter Garland’s world of song and dance. Since this introduction, ‘There’s no place like home’ has served as a comforting haven for the young Hughes to cope when the outside world turns harsh, and individuals can be cold to each other.
Who cares if his love for all things Judy might be a tad excessive? Doesn’t bother me. If anything, Hughes takes Garland singing ‘Forget your troubles, c’mon get happy’ literally which brings a smile to my face and the others sitting at my table.
At the top of the show, Hughes opens with Judy’s love letter homage to Clark Gable but inserts: “Dear Miss Garland” instead. Just watching Hughes's face and eyes during that opening number reveals his special connection with the star whom he just seemed to understand. Additionally, at the end of each song, he drinks from a pink mug emblazoned with Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers.
That love letter homage and mug make Hughes happy.
The backdrop of the show is Judy's image from 'A Star Is Born'. On the stage is a white trunk and microphone. Dressed in comfortable-looking blue jeans, red sneakers, a blue checked shirt, and a white t-shirt underneath, Hughes also uses humour (advice from his father) to cope and make others laugh amid the personal trials he shares growing up as a gay person. He tells the audience there are no frilly costumes in the trunk he wore years ago, much to a few apparent 'Nooooos' from the opening night audience.
He put his father's advice to good use during the show.
For instance, he jokingly states that he was probably the first example years ago of gender dysphoria. Hughes recounts how he loved to get dressed up in frilly things as a child. His parents believed he would grow out of this phase.
Well, that never happened.
Instead, when they had friends over, Hughes’s siblings started saying they felt uncomfortable their brother was running around in girls’ clothing. At one point, his parents carted him off to a psychiatrist who asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.
The young Hughes answered: “Pretty.”
Although this response made the full house opening night audience roar with laughter, a hint of sadness still exists that times were so different years ago.
But Hughes uses this sadness to his advantage. He’s no dummy, that’s for sure.
With elegant accompaniment from Musical Director Mark Selby on the piano, Hughes makes it look effortless to sell Judy’s ‘hurtin’ song ‘The Man That Got Away’ with grace and class. It’s not effortless, though. Hughes has studied Garland’s work on film, has carefully listened to her recordings, and has adopted her uniqueness of vocal technique with dedication and hard work.
And it pays off in spades throughout the show.
To name all the songs Hughes sings would spoil the surprise.
Okay, I’ll only spoil one. His delivery of ‘Over the Rainbow’ is a touching and loving tribute to one of his film idols.
Final Comments: Michael Hughes is an affable performer who knows how to tell a good story. And he most certainly does it with style and finesse.
See ‘Mickey and Judy’.
Running time: approximately 75 minutes with no interval.
‘Mickey and Judy’ runs to August 6 in the Capitol Theatre’s upstairs Sculthorpe Theatre, 20 Queen Street, Port Hope, Ontario. For tickets, capitoltheatre.com or call 905-885-1071.
MICKEY AND JUDY by Michael Hughes
Michael Hughes, Actor
Mark Selby, Musical Director
Director of Production: Katherine Smith