KAILUA-KONA — Judy Garland was an American pop culture icon who knew how to put on a show and belt out a tune.
Her modern counterpart, Angela Ingersoll, wants to bring Garland back on stage the only way she knows how — by channeling Garland’s singing voice and presence into a new concert for Garland fans on the Big Island.
“The only thing better than listening to a great classic record that we love is hearing music that we know, and love, live,” Ingersoll said. “There’s nothing like live music. So to be able to create a live music experience for music that people feel so nostalgic about is a great honor.”
Ingersoll is bringing the concert “Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland” to the Big Island this weekend for a 7 p.m. Saturday show and a 4 p.m. Sunday show at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea.
The show, which Ingersoll has performed in New York, Los Angeles and in her native Chicago, was turned into a PBS special last year and was nominated for two Emmy awards, including one for Ingersoll’s performance. Ingersoll will be conveying her inner Garland this weekend by singing some of her most famous tracks, including ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Get Happy.’
“What can beat ‘Over the Rainbow?’” Ingersoll said. “It’s the greatest song ever written in the 20th century, and I think it’s the greatest pop song ever.”
The message Ingersoll finds in ‘Over the Rainbow’ is the reason she holds it so close to her heart. It’s also one of the more popular Garland songs she sings at her concerts.
“I think the songs that people all know the words to, like ‘Over the Rainbow,’ are a way for us all to see each other as a little more human,” Ingersoll said.
Besides ‘Over the Rainbow,’ Ingersoll lists the song ‘The Man That Got Away’ as her personal favorite to perform.
“I feel that’s the song most deeply ingrained in my heart,” Ingersoll said. “It’s like a tidal wave comes out of my heart when I sing that, and it’s a very easy song for me to sing. I don’t feel strained whatsoever. A very powerful wave of emotion flows through me.”
Ingersoll has been compared to Garland, through both physical appearance and through her singing voice, since she started performing at the age of 5. “Get Happy” was created by Ingersoll in 2015, when after years of playing Garland in the play “End of the Rainbow,” Ingersoll wanted to create a new way to honor the singer and actress she admired so much. She called the project a risk that paid off in the end.
“All of my favorite artists whose biographies I read all say eventually you have to start creating your own work,” Ingersoll said. “Unless you want to stand in line and wait for permission the rest of your life, you eventually have to create your own work and declare to the world what is in your heart.
“And that’s really how these Judy Garland concerts came about. I dared to say I could do her legacy justice.”
For “Get Happy,” Ingersoll wants to capture Garland’s spirit instead of just impersonating her. Even with her likeness, Ingersoll doesn’t want to pretend she is someone she is not.
“I don’t think at all of myself as an impersonator who is trying to fool anyone into thinking that I’m Judy Garland,” Ingersoll said. “It’s not a fake, hokey thing like that. I am my own artist who is her artistic descendant. And I honor her by continuing to tell her stories with compassion and heart so that they feel alive right now.”
Garland became a Hollywood star in the late 1930s with her breakout performance as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” and followed that success with appearances in many more notable films and musicals in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
Despite an active career as an A-list star, Garland’s personal life was filled with struggles with mental health, alcoholism and drug addiction. Ingersoll wants to change the less than stellar image some modern Americans have of the actress.
“I don’t think her legacy should be silly. I don’t think her legacy should be one that is overwrought as a caricature, as a larger than life person that was bombastic,” Ingersoll said. “I want her legacy to be one full of compassion, joy and honesty and seeing her as the powerful artist that she was.”
Info: Tickets for ‘Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland’ are $65/$45/$25, and can be purchased at kahilutheatre.org, by calling 885-6868, or in person at the Kahilu Theatre box office in Waimea. Performances are at 7 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.