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BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway World

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BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldOn Tuesday, July 14 at 8:00 PM Eastern NIGHT OF A THOUSAND JUDYS will be broadcast online for fans of the annual event, and newcomers to the benefit who will, surely, become fans from that day forward. Created, written, and hosted by Justin Sayre, NIGHT OF A THOUSAND JUDYS is a benefit for the Ali Forney Center, the largest resource for homeless LGBTQIA+ youth in the country, and always draws enormous support from the community. Each year the evening is sold out and it isn't only for love of the organization, it's for the appreciation of the impressive roster of guest artists who appear in the program. This year is no different, as NIGHT OF A THOUSAND JUDYS welcomes some of the greatest talents in show business to the virtual concert, which will not only play on the 14th but will remain available for online viewing for at least a month after. Viewers can watch the event and donate at ThousandJudys.com

As the remarkable artists rehearse and Sayre prepares for the exciting night of entertainment, I reached out to the participants, through producer Dan Fortune, to ask about their lives in quarantine, their relationships with the Judy Garland legend, and the need for organizations like The Ali Forney Center.

These interviews were conducted digitally and are reproduced here as received from each performer, all of whom I thank for taking time out to speak with Broadway World Cabaret about this incredibly important evening of art and fundraising.

BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Bright Light Bright Light
Website or Social Media Handles: @brightlightx2 on Instagram, etc; www.brightlightx2.com
Can we hope that you're going to bring that inimitable Bright Light Bright Light sound to your Judy Garland number on the 14th?
I would hope so yes! It won't be quite the gay disco I usually bring, but hopefully something akin to my quieter moments. It's a gorgeous song and I'm excited to work on it.
Is there a Judy Garland song too intimidating to try?
Honestly, almost all of them! Even when she sings standards, there's something so unique about her delivery that makes it very intimidating to try and re-interpret. Certainly, the songs that you ABSOLUTELY associate with her are too intimidating to me!
How can we encourage young people to get involved with organizations like The Ali Forney Center?
The Ali Forney Center is an incredible organization that I've been donating to through my music for this album campaign. I'd encourage young people to look at what they're doing and find out whatever way - big or small - that they can be involved. Whether that's volunteering, being more hands-on, or simply doing a fundraiser independently and donating to the cause. Helping to tackle homelessness in LGBTQ+ youth is SUCH an important concern, especially given the fact we're supposed to be at home as much as possible to protect ourselves from COVID-19 spread.


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldAnn Hampton Callaway
Website or Social Media Handles: AnnHamptonCallaway.com, Instagram @AHCallaway
Are you enjoying being able to reach a wider audience through online performing?
There has been a surprise in the level of reach across the world and the level of intimacy in doing my personal Zoom concerts. I will never forget the beauty of singing an hour-long Zoom concert for a lovely family in Buenos Aires and seeing a tear roll down the father's cheek and his hand reach for his wife's when I sang "My Funny Valentine." The world feels even smaller sharing these moments. I hope this will be one of the blessings of this pandemic.
Do you remember which Judy Garland performance made you, for the first time, say "Wow"?
Judy Garland became my first favorite singer when, as a little girl I watched her riveting performance in "The Wizard of Oz." Then, as years went by, I saw every movie she ever did and collected her records. Highlights were "A Star is Born" and her iconic record "Live at Carnegie Hall." No one will ever compare to her. She sang with every inch of her being. And she is the reason I practice "Judy-ism."
What would you say to encourage other artists to get involved in doing benefits for organizations like The Ali Forney Center?
It is critically important for artists to support arts organizations which are struggling to survive. When this is all over we want everyone to still be standing. When we support these important institutions, we are supporting each other and our future. It is good to elevate people with great music during times like these which feel so challenging. Music brings people together, uplifts us, and brings hope.


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Spencer Day
Website or Social Media Handles: SpencerDay.com, Twitter @SpencerDay, Instagram and Facebook @SpencerDayMusic
After the quarantine creations you made in Mexico, what are you focused on now that you're back stateside?
We are finishing mixing my first upcoming covers record, "Broadway by Day" and are now planning a release date. My main creative focus now is actually on a project called "La Frontera" which will be primarily original instrumental compositions that were inspired by my time in Mexico. This is a real departure for me and I'm very excited about it.
What can singers with a focus on jazz learn from Judy Garland's phrasing and technique?
I actually wouldn't encourage young jazz musicians to listen to her phrasing or technique because I think many of them are already preoccupied with these two things. I would have them listen to illustrate how to communicate a song and really live in it. And to remind them of how important crafting your own sound is. Judy isn't jazz, or Broadway or vaudeville. Like all of the great singers she is a hybrid beyond the confines of a genre's classifications.
The Ali Forney Center helps homeless gay youth; in your life did you have an opportunity to witness, first hand, the experience of young gay people who had been abandoned by their family?
This cause is dear to me. After leaving my rural Mormon upbringing, I headed to San Francisco. I didn't have much of a plan, I only knew my declining mental health and survival depending on going to a more accepting location. After bouncing from one Tenderloin "rent by the week" slum hotel to another, I was actually homeless for a short time. Thankfully, I only lived in my car for a short time before kind strangers found me, and soon after I was able to land housing and a better job. I don't think a young person could afford to do that in the New York or San Francisco of today and not everyone has afforded the same luck with regards to support. That's why I'm here. :)


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Natalie Douglas
Website or Social Media Handles: www.nataliedouglas.com
Twitter: @NatalieDouglas; YouTube: youtube.com/nataliedouglasmusic
Instagram: @nataliedouglassinger; Facebook: www.facebook.com/nataliedouglasmusic
As a prolific source of entertainment in the cabaret and concert industry, how are you finding the transition to online performing?
There are things I've enjoyed about it, since I love learning a new thing and we've all had to learn multiple new skills to create our own tv shows at home! However, I still miss feeling the sound fill a room and I really miss hearing, seeing, feeling an audience. There's nothing like it.
As children we all watched The Wizard of Oz; at what point in your growing up process did you realize that the girl that was Dorothy was this amazing actress named Judy Garland?
I think I was quite small, maybe 5 or 6? I always loved old movies and couldn't wait to watch other Garland musicals. I was absolutely delighted to find so many more!
At a time when people are out of work because of the pandemic, donating to organizations like The Ali Forney Center might be difficult; what other ways are there for people to stay active in socially conscious ways?
Thanks to the internet, we can find myriad ways to be involved no matter what. If you can Google it, you can find it. There are ways to mentor or teach young people virtually. There are organizations that are focusing on getting voters to the polls. There are people who need skills you may happen to have. At the very least, one can make a commitment to be actively, purposefully anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic in your own life - even if it causes discomfort, costs you jobs, or makes you the one who "won't just let it be."


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Nathan Lee Graham
Website or Social Media Handles: NathanLeeGraham.com, Instagram: @NathanLeeGraham
A major part of the shows that you do is your unique personality and the way audiences respond; have you had an opportunity to try out the new online performance mediums?
I'm afraid that my response to the "online performance" experience will in itself be a unique one. First and foremost, anything that inspires people and gets them through these most difficult of times gets an A plus from me! Absolute kudos! But I have to admit creatively and personally I'm not a fan of these homemade online events! LOL! Let me explain. I have such a high regard for what stage crew, light & sound and camera operators do, that I really miss the technical art of editing and light & sound. So it is my greatest hope (since these images and videos last forever) that we can return to the art form asap! And I can take my key light off the stack of books in the corner!
As one of the industry's most fashionable people, what is the image of Judy Garland that stands out most in your mind?
One of my favorite images of Judy was her last great moment at MGM studios in the musical Summer Stock. The iconic black tuxedo jacket with black stockings, black pumps, and matching fedora! "Get Happy" was the number! After being ill with barely no rehearsal she came in and filmed this sequence in 4 takes! Because despite everything she was that great! A look by the way, that has never gone out of style.
Why is it important to you, personally, to help organizations like The Ali Forney Center?
The Ali Forney Center is so important to me because no young person should be without hope! Yes, there will be highs and lows in one's life, that's for damn sure. But it's a heck of a lot better if someone gives a damn early on. Providing the basics. Food, shelter, and a shoulder to cry on through counseling is priceless! And being LGBTQ+ on top of it!? Well, need I say more!? If I didn't have positive and caring influences around me when I was a youth I would be dead. Or at the very least extremely disturbed and perpetually unhappy. The Ali Forney Center lets LGBTQ+ youth know they are wanted and they matter! So please donate if you can.


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Lena Hall
Website or Social Media Handles: Twitter and Instagram @LenaRockerHall
In a world that tries to generalize performance styles and label artists, you have successfully sung musical theater and rock and roll. What's the key to artists doing everything they want?
The key is to simply do it for yourself and the rest will follow. If something piques your interest or if you have a passion for a particular genre of music, then listen to it and sing it to your heart's content. Start a band, perform at open mics, sing karaoke, sing at a benefit, sing along in your home, perform for friends via zoom or live stream. The point is you have the control at the basic level. Indulge in it for yourself and pretty soon people will take notice.
If we looked at your device history, what Judy Garland song would be the one most often played?
"The Man That Got Away"
Night of a Thousand Judys is a benefit for The Ali Forney Center. What was it that, first, drew you to your personal work with charitable organizations?
On the basic level, they house homeless LGBTQIA youth. But there is so much more going on than that. They help set them up for a better future with education and job training along with health care and other basic needs so they can be successful and independent. I am someone who believes that education and job training are essential in building self-esteem which is a crucial part of surviving in this world.


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Ann Harada
Website or Social Media Handles: Twitter @annharada
We are obsessed with the current season of "Penny Dreadful" at our house - is it everything you hoped for?
"Penny Dreadful: City of Angels" is pretty great. I didn't realize how much I needed to see Nathan Lane in a period piece. I think Natalie Dormer is unbelievable. And I'm a big Rory Kinnear fan anyway (from original recipe Penny Dreadful).
As an actor who is frequently cast in comedic roles, what can students of acting learn from watching Judy Garland films?
Oh my god. What can't you learn from watching Judy Garland films? First of all, I believe the secret of comedy (and drama) is truth and vulnerability. No one has ever been able to convey those qualities better than Judy Garland. When she is most devastated, she tries to smile and when she is cracking wise you can see the hurt underneath.
What about the work of The Ali Forney Center do you most appreciate?
For as long as I can remember the Ali Forney Center has been a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community, a safe place for those who were struggling with the complexities of identity and sexuality. I've always thought of it as a haven, the kind of place that could only exist in New York City, a beacon for everyone who ever felt they didn't belong.


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Beth Malone
Website or Social Media Handles: Insta: @thebethmalone, Twitter @heebyfluff
With live performing put on hold for the moment and everyone going digital, is there a chance there might be an online presentation of "Beth Malone: So Far"?
You know, I had never thought of that. Maybe if this goes on and on that's an idea worth visiting. I had thought of turning "So Far" into a doc/movie/concert. I think the thing lends itself to being expanded, but it's hard to get the rights to all the songs I ripped off!!
Out of all the movies, all the recordings, the TV appearances, what is a Judy Garland moment that you've repeatedly thought of throughout the years?
Watching Judy is a master class in something you cannot learn and you cannot teach. She seems to give in to her every subconscious impulse and yeah I've tried to steal that idea from her. Like when Judy spontaneously smashes her face into James Mason's chest in "A Star is Born." It's like, what was THAT? But YES! And that's just one moment in literally a million because Judy's way with "moments" is unmatched. Her face is always just on the edge of something, and you can't tell if she's going to crack open any second which makes watching her sort of terrifying and really thrilling.
You are a prolific activist. What advice would you give to people who would like to do more but don't know how or where to start?
I've been feeling extremely disconnected from the protests and marches during the quarantine, only virtually connecting to causes through opportunities, like "Night of a Thousand Judys," but it's been so strange and sad. If you had asked me this last year my answer would be, "show up in person." I learned that during "Fun Home." Writing a check is nice but really giving means being there with your whole body and soul. But now? My long answer is, follow your rage. Follow your sad. These emotions are in us for a reason and they will lead you to the places where like-minded people are taking action. If you feel strongly about something, there is surely an organization out there already in place trying to have a voice. But right now, writing a check may be the safest thing for everyone. Right now, simply not being part of the problem is activism.


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Eva Noblezada
Website or Social Media Handles: @livevamaria
Do you have a creative outlet that is keeping you company during the current theater closure?
Writing, painting, singing, and just doing the best I can to stimulate gratitude for what I do have. I cannot complain. I'm not quarantining alone and I have food on the table.
Why do you think Judy Garland is still so popular, 51 years after her death?
Because of her spirit. She glowed and she gave so much to her audiences. Almost too much...she was a beacon of showmanship and an inspiration for many to be themselves.
You have a huge fan base of young people. What message would you send to them about getting involved with organizations like The Ali Forney Center?
I would say find the organizations that speak to you and make your heart thump. It's the most powerful way we can connect with our communities and make impacts in our social circles. The Ali Forney Center's mission is to protect LGBTQ youths from homelessness. When young people are reached out to, encouraged, supported financially/emotionally/psychologically, then there is never a cap to what they can do. Everyone deserves the same opportunity to live life how they want to, achieve their goals, and succeed. And these young people really first and foremost need a community that loves them when they feel alone or have been abused by those that they considered family. Our family is who we make. Family means love and the Ali Forney Center I believe is founded on that belief.


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: T. Oliver Reid
Website or Social Media Handles: @toliverreid www.toliverreid.com
You have been wonderfully active with Facebook videos while in quarantine. What is the impetus for opening yourself up to your friends and fans in so personal a way?
The videos started before our quarantine, they used to be at 8:30 am, which is early for theater folks. The new time, 10 am, has more theater people engaged. This idea was always to offer some laughs and hope to get people started on their days. We need the human connection and I wanted to add a bit of humanity to a business and people who sometimes get placed on a pedestal. We are all navigating this life, this moment, together. And we need each other. So we laugh, we gossip (about theater and beyond) we sing Happy Birthday, we find a moment to connect to the spiritual being in each of us. It's all about being better people today than we were yesterday.
What is a song that Judy Garland didn't live to sing that you would have loved to hear her take on?
Ooh, that's such an easy one for me. Mike Reid's great tune that was made popular by Bonnie Raitt, "I Can't Make You Love Me."
Other than donating on the 14th, what are some of the ways people can help The Ali Forney Center?
The Ali Forney Center does such great work with young, gay human beings ALL YEAR LONG, you can give 365 days of the year. Give on Sylvester's birthday. Give on Madonna's birthday. Give in honor or memory of someone you love. These young humans need love and support daily. Make a connection with Ali Forney and maybe to one person and send them a message on their birthday. Let them know that they aren't in this alone. Ali Forney Center lets them know just that...they aren't in this alone.

BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Alice Ripley
Website or Social Media Handles: AliceRipley.com, Instagram @ripleytheband
How does it feel, being the artist who started the craze that is The Changing Table?
It was certainly a great honor to have understudied Susie Mosher in Suds at The Old Globe back before I got my Equity card. To then continue my fan worship by stalking Susan's late-night Instagram vocal improv offerings all these decades later seems natural.
We grew up in an era when all performers looked to Judy Garland as a role model. You are now the role model for young performers. What inheritance would you like to give to the next generation?
To turn people on to artists like Judy Garland.
You make great use of your social media to promote causes like helping organizations like The Ali Forney Center - have you had any tangible feedback that your visibility and voice are helping others?
Thanks for the love! I always hear amazing things about The Ali Forney Center. Thanks for the connection and joy you offer. Yes, I sometimes receive beautiful letters of support from the audience, sharing stories about how something I did creatively helped to re-ignite a heart in some way. But the community saves me, too. Those people writing those letters of support, I hope they know that it's mutual!


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: George Salazar
Website or Social Media Handles: @georgesalazar
How was your experience working on Pride Plays?
It was beautifully moving and gave me so much hope that we, as an industry, are making the right moves to make room at the table. When I was asked to be a part of the program, I asked to see who else was approached to join, to make sure that this stream was going to reflect the change that so many of us have been posting about on social media. I broke down as Ruthie at Playbill read the names of so many actors of color and wow it turned out to be one of the most beautiful live streams I've ever seen. More of this! We need more of this!
Your fan base is made up of young people who might be, while watching this special, learning about Judy Garland for the first time - what about Judy would you like to impart to them?
Judy was devoted to her following, she was committed to giving her all to bring joy to the masses, even when her personal life was less than great. But most importantly, Judy lived her life on her terms and I think that's a great lesson for all of us.
Do you remember the first time you became involved with helping places like The Ali Forney Center?
My whole mission as an artist is to use my art to help people. My art isn't for me. I always dedicate what I do to someone else. When we create for others, the work is just inherently better than if we create for ourselves. At the beginning of quarantine, I started a weekly talk show called "Sundays on the Couch with George." Over the course of less than two months, our viewers donated over $10,000 to organizations in need and I look forward to continuing rallying the troops in my corner to extend a helping hand to those who need it. If you are in a position to give, GIVE. Nothing satisfies the heart more than knowing you are helping a stranger who often times has no one to turn to. I'm honored to be a part of "Night of a Thousand Judy's" this year and if you're reading this, I hope you'll join us and make a donation. The Ali Forney Center does incredible work and even a $10 donation can help homeless LGBTQIA+ youth get their footing, especially when their families disown and put them on the street.


BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Tracy Stark
Website or Social Media Handles: www.tracystark.com, facebook.com/pianogrrl
1. Tell me about the video of you dancing with Clarabelle Cow
Ah, yes. We delve into the important issues first! Last year, I took a short trip to Disney World, with my friend/musical cohort, Lennie Watts. The dance with Clarabelle Cow was just happenstance, as there are pop-up character parades and situations that just happen throughout the day, when you are out and about, in the Magic Kingdom. Although, when Clarabelle was choosing her next partner, she might have been thinking, "From this group of thousands, who is the most unlikely person I can choose to dance with....?" But, once Clarabelle grabs your arm, you surrender. And, you relive a moment of your childhood. And then your friend posts a video of it on Facebook.
What is the Judy Garland song that is sacred to your heart?
I'm never good with choosing one song above others. What I will say, is that there are no songs that Judy Garland doesn't make emotionally important. She delves as deeply into each song as a human being can go, and excavates any possible emotions there are to find. Even with seemingly light songs, she only puts her whole self in, to use an always relevant hokey-pokey reference. She doesn't bother with going one limb at a time. It's always all of her, from the very first moment.
Why is it more important than ever to support organizations like The Ali Forney Center?
We are in a time in history where every underlying secret is coming to light, with more intensity than usual. This is when we realize that our relationships are all we really have. I cannot even comprehend how frightening it must be, to be abandoned by your family. The Ali Forney Center literally saves the lives of LGBT+ children/youth. And gives them a family. This is such a hero organization.

BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway WorldName: Jessica Vosk
Website or Social Media Handles: JessicaVosk.com, Insta and Twitter @JessicaVosk
Does Fred have his own Instagram page yet?
My fans created a fan page for him, but I haven't made him one. He's more popular than me so I put him on my page and ride his coattails.
When one of today's great singing actresses takes on a song originated by Judy Garland, is there any trepidation or nervousness at all?
Well, naturally. Judy is a legend. An inspiration. All we can hope to do is take one of her masterpieces and add a bit of our own personality to it. I'm such a fan of her artistry, her guts. Her determination. Those are things I strive for in my own life.
As someone who mentors young people, what do you think is the most important thing that audiences of The Night of A Thousand Judys will learn about The Ali Forney Center?
Well, first and foremost, in our current social and political climate, young people will save us. I truly believe it. I want them to realize how important they are. I think that they'll see what the Ali Forney Center has been doing for decades, and be surprised at the amount of work they've been doing to help LGBT and homeless youth-from healthcare to job training. We are so lucky to have an organization like this one, and I think young people will come out of this experience inspired and ready to work.

All photos provided by Dan Fortune and Fortune Creative

Watch NIGHT OF A THOUSAND JUDYS on Tuesday, July 14 at 8 pm HERE

BWW Feature: Night Of A Thousand Judys Celebrity Guest Artists Chat With Broadway World


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From This Author Stephen Mosher