A legendary gay night of Judy Garland by way of Michael Feinstein
RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer
On Saturday, the Eisemann Center Performing Arts Center will be home to two legends. The Broadway icon Michael Feinstein will pay tribute to the icon Judy Garland through music, film clips and stories. In Get Happy! Michael Feinstein Celebrates the Judy Garland Centennial, the songman’s new show will give a deeper look into Garland’s life and legacy.
Before Saturday night’s show, Feinstein spoke by phone to Dallas Voice about the show, Judy Garland’s queer connection and how he got the go-ahead from the one person to create Get Happy.
Dallas Voice: This year marks’ Judy Garland’s 100th birthday hence this new show, but how did it come together in the first place?
Feinstein: It all happened quite organically. Judy’s legacy was so iconic so I didn’t think I had the wherewithal to begin but I wanted to find a way to pay tribute to the artist. It turned out to be something that I’m proud of and that has been beautifully received.
With such a large amount to sift through, what made you say yes to going ahead with such a monumental task of presenting Judy Garland’s legacy?
I’m lucky to be friends with Liza and Lorna and Joe Luft as well. I was speaking to Liza about the centennial and she encouraged me to do it. I don’t think I would have pursued it without her insistence. That really gave me the courage to move forward with it.
And you did it. By the sounds of it, it’s not just a collection of songs, but is it fair to say a scrapbook of Garland’s life and work?
The show gives glimpses of her career through photographs and ephemera. There were thousands of photographs to go through and stills and films in the family archives. It felt like climbing a mountain when I started but I think there’s a good balance and something I hope she would be proud of.
One of the things that was important to me was to not dwell on the tabloid aspects and emphasize what made her a star and celebrate the incredible light and joy that she was to everyone who saw her.
In your eyes, what made the queer community embrace Garland so much and continue to do so?
It’s always very interesting to me. So many men in her life helped with her trajectory who were also gay like composer Roger Edens at MGM. He recognized her potential and I think he was able to express a sensibility through her that resonated. Conrad Salinger also saw something in her and unlike Edens, he was openly gay.
Judy understood the pain and struggle of gay people and so she had this beautiful gift for everyone that truly emanated from her that gay people could really experience.
On a different note, but out of curiosity, you have a huge discography, but with all your records, what was the gayest record you think you’ve made?
(Laughs) Well, I appreciate that question because no one’s ever asked me that. Hmmm. Well, maybe the one with Jerry Herman. (Ed. note: 1993’s Michael Feinstein Sings the Jerry Herman Songbook) because he was openly gay. When I make a recording, I try to create something that speaks to everyone, but I guess since that’s the first record I think of, that may be it!
Watch a clip of Feinstein in Get Happy! below. For tickets, click here.