A beloved LGBTQ Pride Month event created in honor of Judy Garland is celebrating a milestone anniversary this year ― just days before Garland’s own centennial.
The 10th annual “Night of a Thousand Judys” will feature musical performances by a host of Broadway and television luminaries, including Tracie Bennett, Kathryn Gallagher, Nathan Lee Graham and more. The one-night event will take place Sunday before a live audience for the first time since 2019 at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York.
Hosted by writer-performer Justin Sayre, the show is a poignant tribute to Garland, who died in 1969 at age 47 but would be turning 100 on June 10. Audiences can expect to see chilling interpretations of classic Garland moments like 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” and 1954’s “A Star Is Born.” Proceeds from the event will benefit the Ali Forney Center, a New York-based advocacy group for homeless LGBTQ youth.
Sayre, who has written for the television series “2 Broke Girls” and “The Cool Kids,” said “Night of a Thousand Judys” has become a more intimate affair since it was first staged in 2012. Over time, Sayre and their producers have also made an effort to diversify the evening’s lineup.
As to why Garland’s films, concerts and television performances continue to resonate with modern audiences more than 50 years after her death, Sayre believes it’s her “achingly sincere and honest” approach to singing and acting.
“I think great talent is always a gift, and surely Judy Garland has that,” Sayre said. “But more so, I think she’s a tonic for the times. She puts it all out there. She sings your heartbreak, your pain, and your joy in the face of it all.”
“I love to see how brilliant performers take on the mantle of Judy Garland,” they continued, “and make it their own.”
In addition to their “Judys” gig, Sayre unveiled a new book last month. Titled “From Gay to Z: A Queer Compendium,” the book is “a fun and funny dive into an ever-evolving culture,” they said.
“I was getting all these letters and messages from young queer people, saying that they marveled at my knowledge of gay culture and wanted to learn about it for themselves, but was there a book? There wasn’t,” Sayre said. “At least nothing I could find. So I set out to set the record straight, or queer as it were.”
In honor of “Night of a Thousand Judys,” HuffPost asked Sayre to rank their top Garland performances. Here are Sayre’s picks.
“Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again” with Barbra Streisand
“The pinnacle of gay, and the passing of the gay torch. A moment of two stupendous talents meeting and honoring each other.”
“A Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow” from “Little Nellie Kelly”
“A funny number from the young Judy that always makes me laugh and feel a lot better about my day.”
“Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” from “Listen, Darling”
“A signature Judy Garland song, with a swing beat that hides the poetry of the lyrics. So much excitement for young love. Sounds good, doesn’t it?”
“The Joint Is Really Jumpin’ in Carnegie Hall” from “As Thousands Cheer”
“A fun number in the early days of Garland, when she fell in love with the jazz idiom. Though many would not consider Garland a jazz singer, her phrasing and tonality are so pure and simple, that she could truly do it all.”
“The Trolley Song” from “Meet Me in St. Louis”
“The excitement of young love on a train. Has public transportation ever been so exciting before or since?”
“By Myself” from “The Hollywood Palace”
“A quintessential song of the later Judy Garland. Commanding, brave and endlessly forging ahead. By myself or with many, Judy goes on.”
“Ol’ Man River” from “The Judy Garland Show”
“Without question, one of the greatest examples of Judy Garland’s ability as a singing actress. Restrained, simple and yet so full of emotion and truth. My absolute favorite.”
“The Man That Got Away” from “A Star Is Born”
“The greatest torch song ever written for one of the greatest torch singers ever. Truly without parallel.”
“I Could Go on Singing” from “I Could Go on Singing”
“My favorite. How I imagine Judy made her entrance into heaven.”
“Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz”
“The reason for the season. Even at this young age, the concentration and truth is still so evident. She’s simply magic.”