|More than two hours of Rufus Wainwright singing the songs of Judy Garland - is this every gay man's dream? Most probably, but it's also an absolute delight for Rufus and Judy fans alike. It will open the doors to a new world for fans on both sides of the spectrum.|
For Rufus followers like myself, many of whom don't give a damn about the music of one of the biggest musical stars and gay icons the world has ever seen, it's definitely something new.
Everybody knows Over The Rainbow and will recognise more than a few from the Rufus repertoire, recorded in the London Palladium in February 2007, but to hear them laid so bare and sung by a man with an angelic, yet very individual voice, is a real delight. They include classics like San Francisco, Chicago, Swanee and Noel Coward's If Love Were All and Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart, joined together with the natural wit and honesty of Rufus.
And for Garland fans to hear her famous American Songbook concert of 1961 brought back to life by someone so passionate, who obviously admires and even obsesses about her, can only be a good thing.
It won't be for everyone. I'm sure there will be many fans that discovered Rufus around the Want era and play his music because of his own sensational song writing ability and unique vocals. Judy Garland may just not be their cup of tea. Ditto with the Garland fanatics - her delicate, yet diva-ish, persona might be one that fans believe should remain untouched.
However, through all this, there is no getting away from the fact that Rufus is a showman, and one who believes it should be about the quality of the music, not the gimmicks. He pours his heart out on stage every second of the way, baring his soul to show how respectful he is of this woman who took the world by storm.
With the big band orchestral backing, Rufus is in his element and it shows - not only in his singing, but also in every movement, ever smile and every note. He admits at the beginning of his performance "yes, I'm a homosexual", playing on the fact that there is no gayer show and no greater homage, even if Erasure sang the songs of Liberace. Yet it's not about that - it's about a great musician sharing his love of an artist with other people.
Rufus is joined on stage by sister Martha (Stormy Weather), who looks pretty as a picture in her 1940s style dress, and mother Kate McGarrigle (piano accompaniment to Over the Rainbow and Every Time We Say Goodbye). Watching the family together is lovely and makes their performances special.
They are also joined by Lorna Luft, daughter of the one and only Ms Garland, who joins Rufus for Hello Bluebird and After You've Gone with a harsh and experienced theatrical voice, but one which brings a touch of magic and showbiz.
The 36-piece orchestra, conducted by Stephen Oremus, is the main delight of this show. The musicians, including legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, are exquisite and some, such as pianist Mark Hummel and drummer Dave Phillips, are mainstays from the original New York Show.
This DVD, directed by Russell Thomas, is simply recorded, with no frills. It is the show, no more, no less. It is the music, the story of Garland and a wonderful homage.