Tuesday, 11 September 2007

18 February 2007 – Rufus Wainwright, London Palladium

The ‘Judy Garland’ Show (first night)

The long-awaited Rufus-does-Judy show finally touched down in London for a starry-starry night at the spiritual home of music theatre. As it was a Sunday (Sound of Music’s night off) the theatre was packed with more luvvies and media types than you could shake a stick at – Sian Phillips, Sir Ian McKellen, Richard E Grant, Ray Davies, David Furnish et al ..

The audacious idea was to recreate Judy Garland’s legendary 1961 show (also performed at the Palladium BITD) song by song. This seems to be something of a life-long ambition for Rufus – the programme note by mother Kate tells of a young Rufus listening almost in pain to worthy folk songs but coming alive when she played a Broadway hit – “That’s what I wanna learn!”

This was no camped-up traipse through Judy-land, this was the genuinely felt channelling of a much-loved singer, with Rufus – as he does – “becoming” the song each time. Obviously there had to be some re-arrangements to allow for his vocal range, and a few songs were turned over to Lorna Luft (Garland’s daughter) and his sister Martha Wainwright. Even so, a whole range of styles were covered that night – no surprise really that he can sing jazz as well as he can sing anything else. The most moving of all was ‘Over the Rainbow’, which Rufus sang sitting on the edge of the stage – I swear I saw a tear in his eye at the end.

What else can I say – this was what theatres were built for.

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