Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rufus Wainwright plays host to the spirit of Judy - Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, September 23.

In pictures, Rufus Wainwright comes off as a dramatic performer, perhaps even a prima donna, who takes his art quite seriously. In a live setting, he is lively, witty and charismatic, a party host who knows how to work the proverbial room with his Hollywood jokes and animated expressions. He smiles when he sings an upbeat tune, even attempts to dance and kick, and humbles himself by following a scratchy note with the acknowledgement that “Judy did it so much better.”

Alongside the L.A. Philharmonic, who provided Sunday night's overture and musical background, Wainwright recreated the entirety of Judy at Carnegie Hall, the double-disc record recorded from Judy Garland's April 23, 1961 show at the New York venue. The record's liner notes claim 3,165 had been in attendance at the original gig, and with a nearly full Hollywood Bowl in tow (18,000 seats in all), it appears Rufus Wainwright far surpassed that original number with his own recreation.

Save for his distinct style of elegance, and the occasional forgotten line, his words were emphasized in the style of Judy, and he even remembered to narrow his eyes and shake a fist at that no-good Jeanette MacDonald on “San Francisco.” The percussion-heavy version of “Come Rain or Come Shine” recreated from Judy's version was a musical highlight as well. He dedicated a track to his newlywed sister Martha, who made her first surprise appearance of the night with an excellent, dramatic rendition of “Stormy Weather.” The pair's mother, Kate McGarrigle, was also hiding backstage and came out to play piano on a few numbers, including “Over the Rainbow,” for which Rufus sat on the floor of the stage, kindergarten-style.

Lorna Luft appeared toward show's end, donning a long hot pink number (Rufus gave his approval), and thanking Rufus for his celebration of her mother's legacy. The expected duet (“After You've Gone”) was sung, as was an encore solo performance, and Luft's pronunciation of the short “i” - even amid Vegas growls – showed her to be a bona fide Daughter of Judy. Debbie Reynolds was among the night's guests, and Rufus came down to give her a kiss, mimicking the part of the original show where Judy came down to kiss Rock Hudson. If only the rest of us, among those 18,000, had been so lucky.

*Side note: for better quality photos of Rufus' lovely velvet jacket and shiny smile, look to Pitchfork, who came out with some decent shots. But for a shot of Rufus in drag, from his encore performance of "Get Happy," get the idea here, or take a long hard squint at his legs in the photo included.

...and check out that Judy!

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