NY Pops Commemorate Judy Garland's Carnegie Concert With Lorna Luft, Karen Olivo and More

News   NY Pops Commemorate Judy Garland's Carnegie Concert With Lorna Luft, Karen Olivo and More
Lorna Luft retraces her mother's footsteps in the New York Pops 50th anniversary celebration of Judy Garland's legendary Carnegie Hall concert March 11 at the famed venue. Tony Award winners Karen Olivo, Heather Headley and Drama Desk nominee Ashley Brown also perform at the one-night-only event.

Karen Olivo
Karen Olivo Photo by Aubrey Reuben

New York Pops music director Steve Reineke conducts the 8 PM concert that boasts the 70-piece Pops orchestra (Garland's concerts utilized 36 musicians) performing the original arrangements and orchestrations from the April 23, 1961, event. Special guest Luft joins Olivo (West Side Story, In the Heights), Headley (Aida, The Lion King) and Brown (Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast), all set to perform in Garland's original keys.

"This was a no-brainer," Reineke told Playbill.com. "I thought, 'This spring concert – it's going to be 50 years almost to the day.' We're about a month off from this 50th anniversary of this iconic concert in Carnegie Hall. So I thought, 'What if we could get all the original charts and put together that set list of music, just as she did it?' And then, that's what we're doing…. This project is a dream come true."

Lorna Luft also helped Reineke locate her mother's original charts from the evening. "That was a difficult process. Very difficult process," Reineke said. "Lorna actually has almost all of these original charts. So Lorna was a huge help in helping us get all this music together, because these are real gems… She's terrific. It's a little bit daunting. I mean, to think she's going to be on the stage with us, and she's kind of an authority on Judy Garland. So, you just kind of have a little bit of reverence and respect for that."

"I'm a huge fan of, actually, this specific concert album," Olivo said. "You know what I think is kind of cool is that it's just so weird and textured. … You're only hearing her, but you can almost visualize what she's going through. And that's the coolest thing. I feel like a lot of people don't do that any more. I feel like she told a song with her voice, and I guess that's the challenge for us."

"It's big shoes to fill, of course, but I remember listening to the album of her at Carnegie Hall growing up," Brown added. "We're finding new things with the music, and it's so nice to do her original keys. I mean, we're really honoring just her. We're not trying to do what we would think our money notes would be, but we're finding some money notes, honey, and we're gonna bring it home!"

Lorna Luft

Garland was only 38 years old when she took to the Carnegie Hall stage to deliver what is considered by many as one of the greatest nights in show business. Luft, her brother Joey, and half-sister Liza Minnelli were seated in the front rows for the concert. Garland returned for an encore engagement May 21, 1961.

Capitol Records recorded the event for a two-LP album that earned five Grammy Awards (Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal of the Year) and spent 95 weeks on the charts (13 of which were in the No. 1 slot). The album has never gone out of print.

The original New York Times review read: "The religious ritual of greeting, watching and listening to Judy Garland took place last night in Carnegie Hall. Indeed, what actually was to have been a concert - and was - also turned into something not too remote from a revival meeting."

The New York Herald reported, "There was an extra bonus at Carnegie Hall last night, Judy Garland sang… And she sang, let it be reported, as she hasn't in years -- not at the Palace and not at the Met; she sang with all the heart that has been her hallmark, but added to it is a happy self-confidence that gives new quality and depth to her performance."

Among the 3,000 people who packed Carnegie Hall April 23, 1961, were Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Myrna Loy, Harold Arlen, Jule Styne, Richard Burton, Carol Channing, Henry Fonda and Julie Andrews.

The concert includes such songs as "The Man That Got Away," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "That's Entertainment", "You're Nearer," "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody," "Chicago," "You Made Me Love You," and Garland's signature, "Over the Rainbow."

In June 2006, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright also honored Garland's concert with Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall. The two concerts sold out and later played London, Paris and Los Angeles. Luft was a guest-vocalist on the album preserving Wainwright's tribute. A DVD, "Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! Does Judy! Judy! Judy!: Live from the London Palladium," is also available.

Luft most recently performed her solo evening Songs My Mother Taught Me: The Judy Garland Songbook at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in early January. She appeared in the Broadway production of Promises, Promises and the national tours of Guys and Dolls, They're Playing Our Song and Jerry Herman's Broadway Years. She also appeared in the UK bow of Irving Berlin's White Christmas.

For tickets visit CarnegieHall.


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