It's 1959 again. JUDY GARLAND is hosting a television special, live from CBS in Hollywood, on Christmas Eve. She looks and sounds better than ever. If all goes well, this will be her greatest comeback yet. (BACK IN CHRISTMAS TOWN).

 

Judy welcomes her old friend BING CROSBY, who presents her with the recipe for his Grandma Maggie's holiday grog. (LET'S SHARE A CUP OF IRISH CHEER) During the song Bing flubs a lyric. Was someone blocking his cue cards? At the commercial break, Judy pretends to brush it off, but puts down the sugary cheer and uncorks the hard stuff. 

 

LIBERACE arrives with bells on, a box of homemade sticky buns and ENSIGN RUSSELL, a strapping young sailor who's his " guest" for Christmas Eve dinner with mother. Judy graciously guides the sailor offstage and nervously urges Liberace to give the gift of music. (THE CANDY CANE TWIST) Yet with each musical chorus, another bulb on his famous candelabra goes dead.

 

A voice belting out "Silent Night" brings on ETHEL MERMAN, just in from Honolulu to chat up her new album, "Ethel Goes Hawaiian." Joined by two hunky fire-baton twirlers, Ethel performs MAUNA LOA HULA HOLIDAY. During the number there's an unrehearsed blackout and Ethel angrily blames a mysterious, shadowy figure in the wings. In fact, everyone has seen him. Judy can barely contain her panic. Is someone trying to ruin her comeback?

 

Judy's first few guests include Bing Crosby (Sean Smith),

Liberace (Don Lucas) and Ethel Merman (Lauri Johnson).

Vice President RICHARD NIXON appears for a walk-on but, once in the spotlight, is reluctant to leave. Judy invites him to stay, only to have Nixon eat up the time allotted for her "trollley number" with a depressing Christmas memory. Judy is furious, but shrewdly saves her show (and Nixon's act) by squeezing him into the upcoming musical segment, THE LIFE OF THE PARTY.

 

Next, Judy visits PUNCH, a goofy puppet whose dilemma of delivering children's letters to Santa is solved with Judy's guidance (ANGEL STAR) and the reluctant assistance of guest LILLIAN HELLMAN. However, in mid-routine, an unseen skeletal hand strangles the puppet and Judy frantically stops the show. She's no sooner saved by the tape delay than the blacklisted Hellman tussles with the Commie-baiting Nixon. Back on the air, their brawl interrupts Judy's fireside duet with Bing. She stops her number and forces them to take the spotlight: (EVER BEEN IN LOVE?)

 

(Left) Punch the Puppet; (Right) Richard M. Nixon (Eric Anderson) and Lillian Hellman (Jan Sheldrick) share a duet.

Judy opens the door to greet her next scheduled guest, but is shocked to discover the sinister figure of DEATH. Pandemonium erupts during the station break but Bing persuades Judy it's just the prank of a fun-loving celebrity. Back on the air, she wings an impromptu version of "What's My Line" in which the Mystery Guest stumps them all and ominously declares, "I Am Death!"

 

Blessedly, JOAN CRAWFORD arrives and after plugging her latest film, recites a bastardized version of the First Christmas. Enraged, Death interrupts her segment with a burst of flames, reduces the show to a shambles and gravely informs Judy, "I have come for you." The others try to protect her until Death reveals that it's not 1959 and that he hasn't come just for Judy - he's come for all of them.

 

(Left) Joan Crawford (Joanne O'Brien) ; (Right) Death (Mark A. Cross) arrives for Judy and her guests.

While the others have no memory of their lives beyond that Christmas Eve, Judy recalls her own ending all too well. If that's all her life added up to, it wasn't enough - that's why she came back. As the others begin to remember how sadly their own lives ended, they realize it wasn't enough for them either. They' forced to admit they followed Judy back for a second chance to fix the past.

Death promises they will all be pardoned if they return with him to limbo. They reluctantly comply, leaving Judy behind. Alone onstage, she bravely tries to sing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" but breaks down, distraught and lost.

Then Ensign Russell appears from backstage. He listens sympathetically as Judy voices her regrets; her friends deserted her and her comeback is ruined. She discovers that he's dead, too - but having lived longer, knows the valuable legacies these talented, if troubled, people left behind. Judy refuses to believe that she also left a legacy, but the sailor gently reminds her that nothing in life, even the bad, is wasted. It's the best that lasts and people do remember. "You can let go," says Ensign Russell. "We've got you."

Pushing the shadows away, Judy sings MAKE IT SHINE and triumphantly exits to embrace her own judgment. Bing, Lillian, Joan, Nixon, Ethel and Liberace each return in song, dressed in brilliant white costumes.

A clang-clang signals the arrival of the Christmas Trolley with Death as its merry motorman and Judy seated beside him. She greets her friends and they board the fantastic vehicle like excited children. Judy waves a grateful goodbye to the audience and they head off toward the stars.

 

Judy and the Company sing "Make It Shine"

 

 

 

Copyright 2005, 2012 Judy's Scary Little Christmas

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