Rufus Wainwright - Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! Live at the London Palladium
If you're reading this and you're homophobic (in, which case, you're an idiot) then you might wanna turn away NOW. Rufus Wainwright, he of the critic's choice lists and homosexual inclination, has clocked his eye on the nation's glittery Christmas stockings by releasing this DVD, one of his live reincarnations of Judy Garland's infamous Carnegie Hall shows. Yup, the Judy Garland. Besides sounding utterly preposterous, the prospect is also gayer than gay. It's also, surprisingly, a complete success story.
I say surprisingly but, being a huge Rufus fan, I shouldn't have had any doubts really. His voice is one of the best we have and, from the moment he takes to the stage singing When You're Smiling, he proves he has the star quality, talent and downright flamboyance to pull this tribute off. Filmed at the London Palladium in February of this year, the show was just one of a succession of worldwide performances. Backed by a 36-piece orchestra, led by uber-talented conductor Stephen Oremus (Wicked, anyone?), he swings his way through the likes of San Francisco and That's Entertainment before switching to 'dame' mode for vocal powerhouses on Do It Again, I Can't Give You Anything But Love and, of course, Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
At a staggering thirty-one songs, the setlist does feel overlong at times, much like the shows where Rufus showcases his own material. However, witty sidebars and anecdotes about Liza Minnelli offer respite, while the tone of the show is kept varied enough so boredom is never really truly an option. Personally, I prefer the jazzier stuff where, as he says, he has to 'get [his] vamp on' but other highlights are on offer. Because it's such a huge production, there are inevitably a couple of starry guest appearances. Judy's very own daughter Lorna Luft does her duty on a couple of numbers, although her showy performance feels overcooked when compared to renditions of Stormy Weather and Someone to Watch Over Me by Rufus's very own flesh and blood, Ms Martha Wainwright. These finely controlled and sultry vocals even provoke Rufus to admit, 'I wish I had Martha's voice.' Their mother Kate McGarrigle gets in on the act too, playing piano on some tracks and sharing in her offspring's prodigious talent.
Despite these collaborations, it is Rufus's show. Proving the perfect showman, opting to neglect his usual piano and guitar to focus instead on his performance and some questionable dancing, Wainwright has created a respectful and entertaining tribute to Garland's memory, as well as a fitting memento of his own re-enactments. This will be loved by anyone who misses the bombast and romance of old-school Hollywood, while dubious Rufus fans have no need to fear. No-one but him could have pulled this off, and that's why he's as revered as he is. It's just a shame we don't get the Rufus-in-drag performance of the encore's Get Happy that featured during other shows. Perhaps that would have been a little too gay.