Night of A Thousand Judys 2012

August 19, 2012

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Our second annual NIGHT OF A THOUSAND JUDYS – the Pride concert to benefit The Ali Forney Center – took place at Playwrights Horizons on Monday, June 18. The show was a special presentation of the acclaimed variety show The Meeting* hosted by Justin Sayre.  NIGHT OF A THOUSAND JUDYS – which honored the legendary singer and actress Judy Garland with special skits, tributes and songs from her storied career – was directed by Ben Rimalower (Project: LohanLeslie Kritzer Is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches). Lance Horne served as Music Director.

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The show featured appearances by Tonya Pinkins (Caroline Or Change, Tony Award winner for Jelly’s Last Jam), Howard McGillin (Phantom of the Opera, Anything Goes), Nellie McKay (Three Penny Opera), Daniel Reichard (Jersey Boys),  Karen Akers (Nine, Grand Hotel), Michael Musto (The Village Voice), Ashley Brown (Broadway’s original Mary Poppins), Darius de Haas (Once On This Island, Rent), Jessica Molaskey (Parade, Songs for A New World), Molly Pope (Wonderful Town, Ars Nova), Frank DeCaro (Sirius XM Satellite Radio, “The Daily Show”), Jenn Harris (Silence! The Musical), Bridget Everett (“Our Hit Parade,” Jukebox Jackie), Flotilla DeBarge (Too Wong Foo),  Murray Hill (Shortbus, “Bored To Death”)Colleen McHugh (Carnegie Hall, 92nd Street Y),  Dan Fishback (The Material World, Thirtynothing) and Summer & Eve (Joe’s Pub, UCB”).

Justin commented, “Every month at The Meeting* we pay homage to a gay icon; we have done everyone from Bette Davis to Miss Piggy. But every June we honor perhaps the greatest gay icon of all time. Judy Garland was born on June 10, and her death at age 47 on June 22, 1969 was said to have been a contributing factor to the Stonewall riots. She loved her gay fans, and they have worshiped her for decades. For the month of gay pride, we could not think of a better fit. Night of A Thousand Judys will celebrate all things Garland and let everyone, performers and audience members alike, find a little Judy magic.”

The Ali Forney Center is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth. AFC’s goal is to provide homeless LGBT youths, aged 16-24, with the support and services they need to escape the streets and begin to live healthy and independent lives. For more information on The Ali Forney Center, visit www.aliforneycenter.org

“The work that the Ali Forney Center is crucial to young LGBT people in New York,” says Justin. “It enables them to thrive and grow in a healthy and warm environment, where they are celebrated for their identity rather than chastised for it. Life may have dealt you a raw hand, but there are people out there to help you through it. In her film roles and in her personal life, Judy Garland embodied an innocence and a resilience that still thrills young and old alike. She had tragedy in her life and yet she continued to give herself to a public that adored her. If Judy Garland was the comeback kid, The Ali Forney Center is the comeback place. I can’t imagine a better combination.”

Carl Siciliano, the Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center commented, ”We are so thrilled to be the beneficiary of this fantastic event! With Mayor Bloomberg’s recent proposed multi-million dollar budget cut for homeless youth services, the support from our community with events like these is vital to the Ali Forney Center, and we truly appreciate it.”

 ………………….………………….REVIEWS AND FEATURES…………………….………………….

June 2012

Andrea McArdle and Tonya Pinkins joined creator and host Justin Sayre, director Ben Rimalower and music director Lance Horne in rehearsal forNight of a Thousand Judys — a tribute to all things Judy Garland — where McArdle and Pinkins readied their voices for Judy classics “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” and “By Myself.” Presented as an installment of Sayre’s variety show The Meeting, this June 18th performance will fall a week after Garland’s 90th birthday and will include performers Karen Akers, Jenn Harris, Howard McGillin, Flotilla DeBarge, Murray Hill, Erin Markey, Summer & Eve and Michael Musto. Proceeds benefit the Ali Forney Center and its mission to assist LGBT homeless youth.

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                                    I Was The Tin Man Last Night

Da Musto, DeBarge, de Haas

                                                                                         by Michael Musto – June 19, 2012

 Playwrights Horizons was filled to capacity for The Night of 1000 Judys, a combo concert/comedy show benefiting the Ali Forney Center.

Host Justin Sayre -- who’s sort of Oscar Wilde meets Whoopi Goldberg — was hilarious, with his offhand monologues about the need for Judy Garland worship (and any other topic that popped into his fertile mind).

The singers were stupendous – Karen AkersMolly PopeTonya PinkinsJessica MolaskeyDarius de HaasBridget EverettSummer and EveAshley Brown,Daniel ReichardHoward McGillinColleen McHugh, and Nellie McKay. Each one delivered a Judy number with power, wit, and extraordinary skill.

And in between their showstopping homages, we acted out a sardonically retold version ofThe Wizard of Oz – written by Sayre — in which Dorothy knew she wasn’t in Kansas anymore because there were no bigots in sight.

Erin Markey was the wide-eyed Dorothy, Frank DeCaro was the dandy lion, Dan Fishback was the slow-witted scarecrow, Flotilla DeBarge was a sass-talking Glinda (“Get your skinny white ass back to Kansas, girl!”), Murray Hill was the imperial Wiz, a greenish Jenn Harris played the scary wicked witch, and Sayre narrated as the scampy Toto, who said the Twister was scary, “but no scarier than when you people run the vacuum.”

And I?

I was the scarecrow, who said nasty shit to Dorothy like “A gingham dress? I can smell the poor on ya!”

I wore a sparkly silver jumpsuit I just happened to have in my closet, and we kicked it.

Thank you, Judy. Your memory is still helping the homeless gay kids.

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                                                                              By Curtis S. Wong – June 11, 2012

Whether it’s the fresh-faced Kansas girl on the yellow brick road to Oz or the throaty, triumphant diva who brought a sold-out Carnegie crowd to its feet, Judy Garland represents many things to many people.

But to multiple generations of gay men in particular, Garland was more than just the consummate stage and screen legend. Her girl-next-door image, sadly, was marred by much-publicized, off-screen struggles that not only grounded many of her performances with a heartbreaking authenticity, but made her at times seem almost superhuman in her resilience.

“She’s kind of like the ultimate comeback kid,” notes New York-based actor, writer and performer Justin Sayre. “I think what’s most unique about Judy is that she really communicated, in real terms, the depth of human feeling. For many gay people…we kind of grow up in a world where we’re not allowed to go there a lot of the time.”

In honor of Garland, who would have turned 90 years old on June 10, Sayre will once again host “Night of a Thousand Judys,” featuring musical numbers, skits and other tributes comprising many of the star’s varied incarnations from throughout her storied career. Directed by Ben Rimalower, the June 18 show will bring together approximately 25 celebrated New York performers, including Andrea McArdle (Broadway’s original “Annie”), singer-songwriter Nellie McKay and Village Voice columnist Michael Musto — the common denominator among them being, of course, a passion for all things Judy.

Now in its second year, “Night of a Thousand Judys,” which is a special presentation of Sayre’s variety show “The Meeting” and timed to coincide with Gay Pride month, also has a beneficent aim, with proceeds benefiting the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in New York. According to Sayre, it’s a particularly appropriate cause given the star’s own gravitas.

“She was someone who was so much about giving to an audience,” Sayre explains. “So much of her career and her life was spent giving of herself, giving of her enormous talent to the people who loved her. In a way, we’re celebrating that spirit.

Still, the performers themselves are tight-lipped about audiences can expect from the evening, which last year included nods to Garland signatures like 1944′s “Meet Me in St. Louis” and 1954′s “A Star is Born,” among others. All McKay will reveal about her number is that it will “contain a sparkle or a sequin or two,” though she takes time to cite Garland’s “wonderful transparent quality” as inspiring her own work: “If she was saying one thing, but thinking another, you could always tell.”

One thing the show won’t contain is a portrayal of the fading, drug-addled Garland of later years (like that portrayed by Tony-nominated actress Tracie Bennett in Broadway’s “End of the Rainbow“). “We don’t talk about that stuff,” notes Rimalower, himself a Garland enthusiast. “Our goal is to celebrate this amazing woman. We don’t look at her career through any particular lens, other than one of admiration and love.”

Interestingly, “Night of a Thousand Judys” arrives at a time when Garland’s relevance to the gay community has been called into question. A much-debated New York Times article, “The Road Gets Rougher for Judy’s Faithful,” referred to “Judyism,” i.e. the gay admiration of Garland, as “little more than a vague cultural memory,” with one 30-something source stating that her legacy had since been surpassed by the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, among other troubled stars.

Not so, say both Rimalower and Sayre.

“Judy may not be the go-to now or in another 20 years for gay icons, but I’m sure there will always be a strong enclave of people who will always adore her,” Sayre said. Adds Rimalower: “There’ll always be that famous struggle, and certainly as gay men we can related to the struggle. But on the other hand, it’s just thrilling to watch a great performance especially if it’s an escape. What Judy brought to it was humility and humanity — you were always right there with her, she wasn’t untouchable.”

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                                                                                  by David Noh – July 4, 2012

Pride Week and Judy Garland always go hand in hand, and there was no better way to celebrate both than at “Night of a Thousand Judys” on June 18 at Playwrights Horizons. A benefit for the Ali Forney Center, which provides housing and social services to homeless LGBT youth, it was brilliantly hosted by Justin Sayre, whose wonderful “The Meeting” regularly enlivens the Duplex with its quirky, camp sensibility, and proved to be the best Garland tribute I’ve ever attended.

Sayre opened it with “Howdy Neighbor” from “Summer Stock,” with a posse of deliciously swishy dancers, helping him put the number over with the élan of Kay Thompson herself. He later delivered a marvelous, serious sermon, invoking Garland’s imperishable generosity of spirit, as well as, pointedly, the need for more of same in the gay community, so obsessed with gym narcissism, judgmental exclusionism, and dehumanized Grindr hookups. This was followed by a heartfelt “A New World,” the melting Harold Arlen-Ira Gershwin ballad introduced in “A Star is Born,” which Lena Horne later took up as a Civil Rights anthem.

The other talent on hand was impressive, indeed –– Howard McGillin, Ashley Brown, Nellie McKay, Jessica Molaskey, John Pizzarelli, Molly Pope (who did a dead-on Judy that made me yearn to see her in a full gig), Tonya Pinkins, who killed on “By Myself,” and Darius De Haas, who is the only guy I ever want to hear singing “The Man That Got Away,” because godammit, he can! Sayre also wrote a reimagining of “The Wizard of Oz,” adorably told through the eyes of Toto, in which Frank DeCaro, as an on-the-money Lion, and Jenn Harris, having the cackling time of her life as the Witch, hilariously stood out.

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