The ninth annual Night of a Thousand Judys celebrates Judy Garland with songs from her film, stage, and recording career. Hosted by Justin Sayre, the evening benefits The Ali Forney Center, the country’s largest agency dedicated to LGBTQIA and homeless youth.
Apparently 40 percent of homeless kids are LGBTQ. (A revelation.) Denied love and support by their parents, thousands of young people run away or are shut out of their homes. Lacking alternatives, they end up on the street. The Center is open 365 days a year offering shelter, support, tools to establish independence and firm declaration that there’s nothing wrong with who these people are and that they’re worthy of love.
This evening features 15 volunteer performers, most of whom Zoom from their homes. The redoubtable Karen Mason opens festivities with James F. Hanley’s “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart.” Infectiously, credibly happy, this light, bubbly version should be on a loop in our homes as a tonic to the times. Mason is in fine voice.
Grace McLean offers an a capella “After You’ve Gone” (Turner Layton/Henry Creamer) layering her own background vocals and scat before our eyes. An idiosyncratic rendition, it showcases musicality and talent, but where’s the tune? Gabrielle Stravelli’s “Old Black Magic” (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer), partnered only with excellent bass, is hushed, cool, and polished.
Turning to period interpretation, Nadia Quinn sings a charming “Get Happy” (Harold Arlen/ Ted Koehler) accompanying herself on ukulele; Margo Siebert, undoubtedly acquiring new fans, performs an enchanting, expressive “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” (Ray Henderson/Lew Brown); and the group Dutchess (Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, Melissa Stylianou) in Boswell Sisters tradition, gives us Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields’ “On the Sunny Side of the Street” – a terrific arrangement with appealing harmony.
Star Search’s Sam Harris joins from the stage of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The artist delivers a highly dramatic take on the ordinarily insouciant “By Myself” (Harold Dietz/Arthur Schwartz). His open-throated vocal emphasizes dawning resignation ending with 11:00 o’clock vigor.
Everyone sings a line of “Over the Rainbow” and we’re out.
Also featuring: Alan Cumming in a lovely, understated, extremely brief “If Love Were All” (Noel Coward); Nathan Lee Graham, Kevin Smith Kirkland, Jose Llana, Vivian Reed, Jane Monheit, Mary Testa.
An eminently worthy organization, the center is looking for donations. To this end, besides the show, there’s an art auction of various original Judy images.
Ali Forney Center President/Executive Director Alex Roque
Our organization’s namesake, Ali Forney, was a gender-nonconforming teen who fled his home at 13. He entered the foster care system where he was bounced around to several homes, and was beaten and abused. Ali ended up living on the streets at the age of 15. Ali was dedicated to helping other young people and publicly advocated for the safety of homeless LGBT youth. Tragically, in December of 1997, Ali was murdered in Harlem—shot in the head and left for dead.
Committed to saving the lives of LGBTQ young people, in 2002 Carl Siciliano founded the Ali Forney Center (AFC) in memory of Ali. Since AFC’s launch with just six beds in a church basement, the organization has grown to become the largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ homeless youths in the country—assisting over 2,000 youths per year through a 24-hour Drop-In Center which provides over 70,000 meals annually, medical and mental health services through an on-site clinic, and a scattered-site housing program.
The Center: https://www.aliforneycenter.org/about-us/