Luminato 2014 ends with Triumphant Gender-bending Song Fest
An Evening of Love Duets
Steven Oremus, Music Director
June 14th, 2014 7:30 pm
Sony Centre, Toronto
For my money, Luminato 2014 saved its best for last - well, not quite the last but the pentultimate day of the Festival - with Rufus Wainwright's If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway. It was billed as an evening of love duets with a twist - Broadway show tunes meant for heterosexual romance are sung here by men and for men. Who could be more appropriate to create such a show than the inimitable Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright? After all, he told Martin Knelman of the Toronto Star that his boyhood dream was to play Annie on Broadway. For this show, he has gathered an "A list" of male singers to appear with him - Josh Groban, Brent Carver, and Boy George among them. It was sold out, no mean feat given the cavernous size of the Sony Centre.
The pre-show atmosphere was electric, with a a real sense of occasion. Right after the orchestra's introductory medlay, Wainwright came on and sang "I hate Men" from Kiss Me Kate. Well that sure got everyone's attention! The first half ended with "If I Loved You" from Carousel. In between, there were many memorable moments, such as the nice duet between Wainwright and David Byrne of "People Will Say We're in Love" from Oklahoma, even if Byrne had a bit of an off night vocally. It was great to see (and hear) Brent Carver as a late replacement for Andrew Rennalls, singing a song from Funny Girl. It was a glitzy evening that could become rather stiff and overblown, but that didn't happen thanks to the warmly funny and endearingly relaxed Wainwright and the good will from the audience. For me, the true highlight was the duet between Wainwright and Josh Groban in "If I Loved You" - hearing all eight vocalists back to back, it was obvious that Groban has the most amazing set of pipes among them - Bravo!
A touching moment was the singing of "Somewhere" from West Side Story with the whole cast - it was as close to a political statement as it got in the whole show. (In the TimesTalks interview, Wainwright expands on his thoughts about the significance of this show in gay culture and politics.) The guests were mostly great, but it really was Wainwright's show and he shone, particularly in "Can't Stop Loving that Man". The large orchestra under the inspired musical direction of Stephen Oremus was fine. This show is supposed to be repeated in the future, and I am sure the various agents and presenters are feverishly working on it right now. Incidentally, someone at TimesTalks interview I attended the next day asked if a soundtrack would be released from the show. Wainwright replied a future performance may be taped for release but not the Toronto show - too bad.
Based on the comments from the interview, those people who missed the show may be able to catch it in the future, likely in New York or London. And if you missed the interview - well, you are in luck! It has been posted on Youtube in the Luminato channel, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkSsQgrxoIc Enjoy!
- Joseph So
Labels: Boy George, Brennan Hall, Brent Carver, Concert_Review, David Byrne, Ezra Koenig, If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway, Josh Groban, Luminato 2014, Rufus Wainwright, Steven Page, Times Talks