A host of Broadway and television stars will celebrate Judy Garland’s life and legacy in New York City next week, just two days after what would have been the Hollywood icon’s 101st birthday.
Now in its 11th year, Night of a Thousand Judys is set to take place Monday, June 12, at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater. The lineup features the breakout star of Broadway’s “Funny Girl” revival, Julie Benko, along with Telly Leung and Tony winner Lauren Patten, among other performers.
As in previous years, 2023’s Night of a Thousand Judys will be hosted by writer-performer Justin Elizabeth Sayre, whose credits include TV series like “2 Broke Girls” and “The Cool Kids.”
Proceeds from the show will benefit the Ali Forney Center, a New York-based advocacy group for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
“Judy, to me, is all about giving your all on stage,” Sayre, who uses they/them pronouns, told HuffPost.
“She felt all your feelings. She sang all your sorrow and your joy, and those moments were incandescent and live. In this moment ― when we’re continually moving to a more virtual world ― I think the importance of live connection is paramount and, in many ways, a remedy to our continual alienation from one another.”
Garland endeared herself to legions of moviegoers as Dorothy Gale in the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.” Her streak of indelible performances continued in films like 1944’s “Meet Me in St. Louis” and 1954’s “A Star Is Born.” She also went on to establish herself as a thrilling concert act, most notably in 1961 when she performed before a sold-out Carnegie Hall crowd in New York.
By all accounts, Garland was a once-in-a-generation talent who continues to influence contemporary artists like Ariana Grande, Billy Porter and Pink. The actor and singer’s later years were publicly defined by her experiences with drug and alcohol addiction. She died of an accidental overdose in 1969 at age 47.
Still, Sayre said Night of a Thousand Judys is “not about living in [Garland’s] shadow, but delighting in her starlight.”
After Night of a Thousand Judys wraps Monday, Sayre intends to continue their celebration of Pride month by hitting the road with a brand-new show, which they described as a “travelogue through the last 50 years of the LGBTQ rights movement.”
The concert, titled “Pride Anthems,” debuted in New York last month and will soon be staged in Miami and San Antonio, Texas, among other U.S. cites.
Watch Judy Garland perform “The Man That Got Away”:
Of course, Sayre is aware that this year’s Night of a Thousand Judys is being held as the queer community is grappling with a troubling rise in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Florida and Texas, among other GOP-led states.
Ultimately, Sayre is hopeful that Monday’s show will foster a refreshed “sense of community” that audience members will carry with themselves through the duration of Pride month and beyond.
“Our slogan for Judys has always been ‘There’s no place like home,’” Sayre said. “It’s time we make sure our kids have a home to go to, and it’s time we all find a home with each other.”
Need help with substance use disorder or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.