Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

A JUDY GARLAND CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION ends the year on the right note.

By: Dec. 15, 2022
Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Be an original. That's what Judy Garland did, one day back in 1961. She got to Carnegie Hall by being an Original, by being a One and Only, by being The Best, and the world has never forgotten it.

Monday night Jessica Vosk was an Original. Jessica Vosk was a One and Only. Jessica Vosk was The Best. And Jessica Vosk was at Carnegie Hall.

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

In her first trip back to the legendary stage since debuting there in 2021, Jessica Vosk presented GET HAPPY: A Judy Garland CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION. It feels like we've been celebrating Judy Garland's 100th birth date for about five years, now, but it's really only been a year since the official tributes began because, let's face it, every year people sing the music of the Garland catalogue, as they should because the music is important and the celebrating and honoring of Judy Garland is a neverending process, and a priviledge. In the last twelve or so months we have seen many artists present their personalized Judy Garland Centennial show, and each one that this writer saw (scheduling conflicts prevented a perfect track record) offered something of merit, something unique to the individual performing the play, but there can be no question that the Vosk Garland show was beyond anything. After all, the production was playing the stage where Judy Garland had the greatest concert achievement of her career, the lobby of the venue had, on display, the sequined jacket blouse that Judy wore for that unparalleled night, and the spotlight shone, strong as ever, on one of the brightest new stars of the industry, performing in a program that had been constructed in ways perfect and playful, entertaining and enlightening, and, in simplest terms, marvelous.

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

For a little over two hours, Jessica Vosk talked Judy and she sang Judy, but she made it clear, at the top of the show, that this was not Judy Garland 101, that there would be no reciting of facts culled from the internet, a library of biographies, and the collective consciousness of a group of gay men who store the details of Judy Garland's life in the various rooms of their minds. Jessica Vosk was here to talk about Judy Garland, about Judy Garland's work, and what she loves about both (everything) and how the two have affected her own life. She ran back and forth across the stage, she jumped up and down, she swooned and lay on the floor, and she cried out in pain and pleasure during her discussions of Dorothy and her explorations into Esther. Using footage from the iconic and beloved Judy Garland Show, Jessica's focus on Judy's work leaned into the concert performances because, after all, this was a concert, this was a music show, and it was being led by one of the great musicians of our day, Jessica Vosk. The movies were touched upon, as this was an all-encompassing look back at Garland, as was Judy's life, which made for a solid foundation for the event, especially during moments like Jessica's drive-by on the topic of tragedy - yes, she said, it was there, she said, let's acknowledge it, she said, but let's not focus on it, she said. The Hall full of people had come to Get Happy, and, thanks to Jessica Vosk, happy, they got.

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Jessica Vosk is an extremely personable lady. She loves to laugh, she loves to be the source of the laughter, and she loves to play. Throughout her Judy Garland show, Jessica joked with the musicians (the orchestra was out of this world), she teased Mary-Mitchell Campbell (who has developed as iconic a following as the divas for whom she Musical Directs), and she kidded with the audience (gay jokes abounded at the Judy Garland concert, showing Vosk in her natural habitat). Even as passionately informed on the topic of Garland as the Robert Cary/Jonathan Tolins script was, there was an abundance of actual Vosk-talk, which made the evening more accessible and more enjoyable. And the chemistry between Jessica and guest artist Andy Karl was also mischievous and spirited (Vosk and Karl are widely known to be two of the silliest people in the business). With Jessica Vosk leading the way, there was nothing else for the concert but to be fun - a boon to the program because people familiar with the Garland legend know that Judy was reported to be one of the funniest people in show business, a fact all of her friends declared over the years, and that the ones who live still proclaim, loudly. An evening called Get Happy that celebrated Judy Garland would have to be fun, and director Michael Arden made sure that it was.

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

For example, how ingenious was it for them to get Zac Posen to design two Judy Garland-themed outfits for Jessica Vosk? For Act One the couture-loving diva wore a sequined romper that was a clear variation on Judy's Tuxedo Jacket look from the "Get Happy" number in Summer Stock, and during Act Two Jessica Vosk was the human embodiment of a Ruby Slipper. How smart was it to have Jessica Vosk deconstruct the famous "Just In Time" arrangement and performance, stopping and starting the playback to discuss the emotional content, the vowel placement, and the mic cord with an audience that was (without question) going to get every reference and understand each break down? And how brilliant was it for the creative team to bring in Andy Karl (a former Fiyero) to duet with Jessica Vosk (one of the most famous Elphabas), amidst occasional Wicked jokes and references? Between the levity built into the script and the force of funny that is Vosk, there was a relative guarantee that the audience would go home happy... but this was a music show about the woman considered by most to be the greatest entertainer who ever lived - the success of the program could not be hinged on mere convivial chat between Jessica and the crowd. The music had to be exceptional.

The music was exceptional.

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

With a voice possessing of power and an instinct informed by emotion, Jessica Vosk brought herself to the Judy Garland catalogue without stripping Judy from the individual performances. She vowed to not imitate, and she didn't, but she also didn't detract from the honorable memories of Judy by going way off-course with new arrangements. Jessica and Mary-Mitchell kept it all straight-forward and familiar, they didn't make their work more important than Judy's memory. Bringing down the house with the de rigueur numbers like "Puttin' On The Ritz," "Get Happy," and "I Feel A Song Comin' On," Jessica was a thrill-a-minute concert diva, inspiring gay gasps, soothing sighs, and shouts of appreciation that rang into the air over tumultuous applause. She slayed with a perfect rendition of the famous "Almost Like Being In Love" medley, she wailed on a stunning "Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home," and she dared to be different, delivering a "Man That Got Away" with a little more anger than anguish, which was always Judy's choice. Jessica Vosk is an actress, and a good one, and the world's greatest torch song must be performed in the pocket in which the actress sits, and if that is where Vosk lived in the moment, this writer and Garland enthusiast is not mad about it: the rendition was impressive.

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Highlights for this Friend of Dorothy were Vosk's "Chicago" (admittedly, my personal favorite of Garland's up-tempo hits) and "Hello, Bluebird," which Jessica made into a duet for she and Andy (who sounded eye-openingly amazing on "I Left My Heart In San Francisco"). Cliff Friend created a natural build of excitement into the song "Hello, Bluebird" when he wrote it, and Judy Garland layered in more thrills with her performance of the song in the movie I Could Go On Singing, but Jessica, Andy, and Mary-Mitchell seemed intent on making that increase of elation something akin to excitement on steroids so that, by the end of the number, the inclination was for the crowd to go wild, which is exactly what happened. It was a stupendous moment in concert performing.

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

And then there is the matter of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Over The Rainbow" to discuss. Both compositions are songs originated by Judy Garland, owned by Judy Garland, that nobody ever needs to sing, that everybody sings, often to less-than-advantageous effect. Jessica Vosk sang the two tunes so beautifully, that gorgeous, full, feeling voice of hers filling up the rafters and rarified air of Carnegie Hall, that it was patently clear we were hearing something special. And even though Jessica did not sing the "Until then/muddle through" lyric used in the movie Meet Me In St. Louis (grrr...), it is forgivable because we live in times when sadness is not welcome in the room, and that's a pretty sad (albeit hopeful) lyric - so the choice that was made to go with the "Hang/star/bough" lyric is understandable and acceptable. And the Rainbow song? Stunning. Jessica's voice sounded so very pretty, so very lush, so very otherworldly while singing Judy's signature song with a full orchestra in the Carnegie acoustics - it really was a treat to hear, and a memory that the audience is sure to hold onto for years to come, rather like audience members who were at the concert in 1961 - two of whom were in the house on Monday night - Jessica asked them to rise so that the rest of the awe-struck audience could cheer for them. This was an indisputably special night, on all fronts, and it is only fitting that one of today's great concert performers would honor the greatest of all time in such a loving, properly crafted, and well-executed manner - one that won't, soon, be forgotten.

Visit the Carnegie Hall website to see what shows they have coming up HERE.

HERE is the Jessica Vosk website.

Visit the Andy Karl website HERE.

Richard Termine's photos were provided by Carnegie Hall.

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas

Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas Review: Jessica Vosk GET HAPPY Gives Carnegie Hall A Merry Little Christmas


Black Ink Presents Bio:

Black Ink Presents is a creative and production agency that specializes in creating and producing concerts, live experiences and immersive events worldwide. Creating unforgettable experiences through film, live music, and creative design is Black Ink's core mission and why they are one of the industry leading companies in non-traditional entertainment. Black Ink Presents other live projects include: Rocketman: Live in Concert w/ Elton John and Taron Egerton, A celebration of music from the film Coco Live; (Filmed for Disney+) , The Nightmare Before Christmas Live w/ Danny Elfman and Billie Eilish, FrostFest LA featuring Love Actually in concert, Danny Elfman's Big Mess (Coachella and Hollywood Bowl), Brucefest: the definitive Bruce Campbell Film Festival, La La Land live in concert: a celebration of Hollywood.

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