Judy Garland a lightning rod for criticism, Tracie Bennett says

Tracie Bennett is nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play. "End of the Rainbow" received a total of three Tony nominations. Tracie Bennett pictured onstage at the "End of the Rainbow" Broadway opening night at the on April 2, 2012, in New York.
Fernando Leon/Getty Images
Tracie Bennett pictured onstage at the "End of the Rainbow" Broadway opening night on April 2, 2012, in New York.
Fernando Leon

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Actress Tracie Bennett had an ideal job Sunday night. She played Judy Garland on the Tony stage in New York on what would have been Garland's 90th birthday .

But it doesn't come without criticism. Bennett, who portrays the legendary singer on Broadway in "End of the Rainbow," understands this and seems to take it all in stride.

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The Tony Award-nominated Bennett (she lost out Sunday to Nina Arianda) said she understands the protectiveness that Garland fans have. "It's fabulous," she said.

Last week, the New York Post reported that a fan accused the 50-year-old British actress of lip-syncing during the performance. But that doesn't affect Bennett, who said she knew what she was getting herself into when she accepted the part.

"I've approached the piece not thinking if they loved it or hated," Bennett said on the red carpet before the awards show Sunday.

Overall, she said, the Broadway audience has embraced the show like the ones did in London: "They stand up. They cheer. They move."

Bennett has been playing Garland since early 2010 when the musical first opened to critical acclaim in London. It transferred to Broadway in March.

Her co-star and fellow Tony nominee, Michael Cumpsty, said the show leaves most people cheering, but is not surprised by a little controversy, given that the topic is an iconic star as talented and troubled as Garland was.

"Judy Garland pulls out these amazingly subjective visceral responses from people. And we have people coming who are in love with what we're doing and think that Tracie is Judy Garland," he said. "And we have people that think Tracie is not Judy Garland. It's very bizarre and very subjective."