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Thursday, 04 June 2015 22:40

Off-Broadway Review: Night of a Thousand Judys

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For the fifth year The MeetingJustin Sayre's monthly cabaret performance, moves uptown to The Kaufmann Center for Pride Month in honor of Judy Garland. This special two act concert raises support of the Ali Forney Center, a charity organization which aids homeless LGBT youth. Taking some of Joe's Pub's finest performers with him, the evening is propelled by a very different ambiance than the downtown cabaret. While on his soap box in Joe's Pub, Sayre infuses the audience with outrage, at this concert he appeals to compassion. The performance follows the structure of The Meeting, with a set list of featured vocalists, a self-professed "middle-school theatric" staged reading, and an eleventh hour tirade by the host.

The first act performances were a strong spread of professional class. Brief outbursts of performer interaction dotted the steady outpour of Judy Garland's best ballads. Michael Feinstein performed "If I Only Had A Brain," a soft solo, dislodging its message from the iconic plot. Randy Graff displayed Judy Garland's diva abandon with "Come Rain or Come Shine." Closing the act, Molly Pope controlled the spotlight with her customary brassy voice in "By Myself."

Act Two, in contrast to the smokey reserve of the first, had more a variety act release to it. Judy's works weren't performed with platonic idealism in mind but rather artistic collaboration. Kim David Smith sang "The Trolly Song" as a 70's disco, The Skivvies, customarily nude, performed a "Get Happy/ Happy Days Are Here Again" mashup clothed and Brendan Maclean, customarily clothed, performed "Down With Love" on the ukelele, pantsless. There were also moments of classicist beauty, in particular Lauren Worsham's soaring operatic rendition of "By Myself," and Liz Callaway's minimilist belting of "I Happen to Like New York." As is customary, the concert's finale welcomes all performers back on the stage to sing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" in unison with the audience.

Mr. Sayre's long form monologue, usually a time taken to provoke the audience with social atrocities straight from the headlines, was instead used as an effective sermon on the nature of home. With approachable humor he detailed his progress of living situations in his life. The jokes were heartfelt, self-depreciating and inclusionary for the gala's broader appeal. His case for the Center as a place where home is made and the continuing importance of home in today's disconnected society was compelling. He implored for empathy on those whom the Center aids.

Judy Garland wasn't a thin framework for this performance. The performance honored her legacy as a woman who stood as a gay icon before such a thing as gay rights was discussed. The annual performance reinforced Garland's acquisition by the LGBT community as a decisive choice, rather than random decision. Though the interest in her is at time camp, there is certainly only respect for the departed performer by all who performed. Mr. Sayre maintained his podium as one of gay culture's vanguards. With many even in the LGBT community dismissing past gay icons as kitch, he cultivates respect for them as milestones towards equality, and did it while supporting a great cause.

Other artists who lent their talents to the evening include: costume designer, Jennifer Jacob, music director, Steven Jamail, director, Peter James Cook and music supervisor, Lance Horne.

Additional Info

  • Show Style: Musical
Last modified on Friday, 10 July 2015 02:04