The History of "Judy's Scary Little Christmas"


Jim Webber and David Church met as students at Emerson College in Boston where they began their writing collaboration.  After separately migrating to Los Angeles, Church worked in advertising and sold screenplays while Webber, a treasurer at a variety of Los Angeles legitimate theatres (including the Hollywood Bowl), moonlighted as a designer for the Equity Waiver theatre scene.  Reunited, they continued their collaboration and in 1997 began work on JUDY’S SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS.  In September of that year, armed with a sixty-page script with no songs, they presented a living-room reading to friends and associates – featuring local cabaret performer Julie Sheppard as Judy Garland. 


Encouraged by the enthusiastic response, Webber and Church expanded their script and began to search for a composer and lyricist who could provide the score to complete their play with music.  Actress Kimberly Price (who had played Joan Crawford in Church’s living room reading) suggested Joe Patrick Ward, a talented songwriter whose clever revue, THE GRAVE WHITE WAY had recently enjoyed a successful run at the Hollywood Roosevelt Cinegrill.   A musical parodist with a wicked sense of humor, Ward proved a savvy choice when he delivered an original “spec” song, ‘Ever Been in Love?’ – an unlikely holiday love duet for Richard Nixon and Lillian Hellman.


That fall, with a portfolio of eight songs, Joe Pat and the writers rounded up a cast of performers (including Julie Sheppard, the outrageous Jason Graae as Bing Crosby and Craig Wasson as Richard Nixon) and spent a weekend in a Hollywood recording studio producing a CD demo to sell the show to producers and theatres. 


However, with no concrete production in the offing, the collaborators decided to stage a reading of the show in New York in January of 2000.  Church contacted Broadway director (and fellow Emerson alumnus), Leonard Foglia, of the recent Terrance McNally hit  MASTER CLASS, and Webber booked the John Houseman Theatre Center for the reading.  While the challenge of casting the roles of famous celebrities proved initially daunting, the auditions conducted by Charles Rosen & Associates, uncovered a dazzling array of New York talent, including Isabel Keating who played Judy Garland, Jan Maxwell who channeled Joan Crawford, and A CHORUS LINE veteran, Kelly Bishop, as Lillian Hellman.  Despite an unexpected blizzard, the readings were well-attended and the audiences responded resoundingly.



"Judy's Christmas" Second Reading in NYC:

From left: (back row) David Church, James Webber,

Joe Patrick Ward, Director Leonard Foglia.

(front row) Isabel Keating (Judy), Kristine Zbornik (Ethel Merman).



In early December 2000, Mr. Foglia helmed a second reading of the show, this time sponsored by the play development arm of The Barrow Group and presented at the Arc Light Theatre on 71st Street in Manhattan . Last-minute rewrites featured a brisker, more entertaining second act, and Isabel Keating repeated her performance as Judy Garland.  “Judy” received an overwhelming response and a surprise rave review on, in which their critic predicted a New York production within the year.   While the anticipated production didn’t materialize, a canny casting agent in the audience snatched up Ms. Keating to play Judy opposite Hugh Jackman’s Peter Allen in THE BOY FROM OZ, for which she received a Tony Nomination in 2003.


The post-9/11 autumn of 2001 in New York was no atmosphere in which to mount a new show, so Webber, Church and Ward began the groundwork to create a Los Angeles production of the show.  Ward’s revue, THE GRAVE WHITE WAY had featured an outstanding performance by another CHORUS LINE alumnus, the dynamic performer/ choreographer Kay Cole.  Ward presented her with the “Judy” script and she quickly agreed to direct and choreograph the show.  Strategic advice was sought and obtained from Los Angeles theatrical producer, Eileen T’Kaye and respected press representative, Tim Choy.  With the three collaborators as producers, a budget was raised, production staff hired, auditions held, cast rehearsed and JUDY'S SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS had its world premiere at the Victory Theatre in Burbank on November 17, 2002. 


The original set design concept for

"Judy's Scary Little Christmas"



In the leading role was none other than San Francisco’s popular cabaret icon and actress, Connie Champagne.  Sparse preview audiences quickly grew to packed houses as word of mouth guaranteed a sell-out of the final weeks of the limited run.  In only 22 performances, the creators/producers earned back their entire investment, as well as rave reviews from the Los Angeles theatre critics. 


The following February, the LA Weekly nominated JUDY'S SCARY LITTLE CHRISTMAS the Best Musical of  the Year, and in September, the show was nominated Best World Premiere Musical and Connie Champagne for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical by the prestigious L.A. Stage Ovation Awards.  Up against such Broadway names as Rachel York and Carolee Carmello, Connie Champagne won the Ovation for her celebrated performance.


The original "Judy" cast reunites for

a second engagement in West Hollywood.


In December of 2003, JUDY re-opened in West Hollywood at The Court Theatre on La Cienega Boulevard for a second limited holiday engagement, surpassing its earlier success both critically and financially.  The authors also licensed the first regional production of the show, presented by Triangle Productions in Portland, Oregon in December 2003 for which Tony James (as Judy Garland) shared the local “Drammy” award for his performance with fellow leading man, William Hurt, for “Richard III.”


Joe Patrick, David and Jim reunited the Los Angeles company to record an original cast album – at last!  The CD was released in November, 2005.


Since then, “Judy” has been produced by Stage West in Des Moines , Iowa, by Hell in a Handbag productions in Chicago, Illinois,  by the Transport Theatre in Venture, California and by the Music and Drama Company in Nashua, New Hampshire.  


Finally, in late 2009, SAMUEL FRENCH, INC., the nation's leading publisher of plays and musicals, acquired "Judy's Scary Little Christmas" for their catalog.  "Judy" is now available for productions all over the country and the world! 


Connie Champagne as Judy Garland





JUDY GARLAND Connie Champagne
SAILOR Dustin Strong
ETHEL MERMAN Lauri Johnson
PUNCH Jim Hormel
ENSEMBLE Charles Herrera
ENSEMBLE Heather Holland
ENSEMBLE Terri Homberg
ENSEMBLE Jonathan Neeley



Amanda Abel

2002 Los Angeles VICTORY THEATRE production
Directed and Choreographed by KAY COLE
Production Stage Manager JENNIFER SCHEFFER
Production Assistant SHERRI PILGREN
Presented in Association with the VICTORY THEATRE, BURBANK.






Barrow Group


JUDY GARLAND Isabel Keating Isabel Keating
BING CROSBY Tom Galantich Tom Galantich
LIBERACE A.J. Vincent A.J. Vincent
ETHEL MERMAN Joy Hermalyn Kristine Zbornik
RICHARD NIXON Ray Wills Christopher Wynkoop
LILLIAN HELLMAN Kelly Bishop Marilyn Sokol
JOAN CRAWFORD Jan Maxwell Roxie Lucas
SAILOR / CHORUS Erik Lautier Rich Affannato
DEATH / CHORUS Robert Longo Tim Alex

New York Readings Directed by LEONARD FOGLIA




Copyright © 2005, 2012 Judy's Scary Little Christmas

James Webber, David Church & Joe Patrick Ward