Review by Joe Regan Jr.
To celebrate her new CD, “Susan Hodgdon Sings The Songs of Judy Garland I Could Go On Singing,“ Hodgdon had a celebration at Don’t Tell Mama on September 24. The capable music director was Daryl Kojak, and it was directed by Tanya Moberly. Hodgdon has a special connection to Garland because her mother was a cousin of E. Y. Harburg who wrote “Over The Rainbow” and was one of Garland’s favorite writers. Hodgdon had done this show seven times before at Don’t Tell Mama.
When she was ten years old, she would close her bedroom door, pull down the shades, and sing Garland songs while her father would listen outside her door. Hodgdon’s voice is not anything like Garland’s; she has not the vibrato that Garland was a master of using. Most of the time she stood stark still and sang face front. Sometimes she sat on a stool in some of the quieter moments.
There was talk of Garland’s wretched personal life and the men she was in love with. Garland was in love with Artie Shaw who eloped one night with her friend Lana Turner. She then married David Rose and when she got pregnant Louis B. Mayer, her mother, and Rose insisted she abort the child. To demonstrate Garland’s love of children, Hodgdon sang a children’s medley which included “Snow Flakes,” (a song Garland sang in A Child Is Waiting), “Liza.” “Happiness is Just A Thing Called Joe,” (son Joe was born when she was in the hospital at the time she lost the Academy Award for “A Star Is Born”) and then she had Johnny Mercer write one for her second daughter, “Lorna.”
Talking about her broken relationships with men, Hodgdon did an energetic “Send My Baby Back To Me,” one of Garland’s Columbia singles.
A special treat was Hodgdon singing the song that John Meyer wrote for Garland late in her life, “I’d Like To Hate Myself In The Morning” about Garland’s love of partying, not caring whom she slept with the night before. Hodgdon did a very big physical performance and acknowledged Meyer in the audience.
The ruefulness of never finding the right man, elicited a full, tender version of the sad “But Not For Me.” When Garland’s father was dying, she phoned him in the hospital and sang “Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart,” Hodgdon doing the same thing when her father died.
Hodgdon detailed Garland’s other husbands and how her last husband had to crawl through a skylight to find her dead in the bathroom.
Yes, there was the big medley (arranged by Bill Zeffiro) which included among others “Johnny One Note,” “I Don’t Care,” “Trolley Song,” “Purple People Eater,” “That’s All,” and “Rockabye Your Baby.”
For her most autobiographical film, Garland called on Arlen and Harburg to write the songs. Hodgdon sang a complete version of the title song “I Could Go On Singing.” Then, for an animated feature in which Garland sang the part of a cat, Garland suggested Arlen and Harburg write the score. It was their last film score. Hodgdon sang “Little Drops of Rain,” not the expected “Paris Is A Lonely Town.”
And for Hodgdon’s closing she stood stock still and, with great support from Kojak, sang “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” and “Over the Rainbow.” She was not imitating Garland but singing as herself.
For more information about Hodgdon’s CD go to her website www.susanhodgdon.com