A bevy of Broadway and TV performers will salute Rufus Wainwright with a special Oct. 1 concert in New York.
Taylor Trensch, Andy Mientus, Alice Ripley and Wesley Taylor are among the stars slated to take the stage this Sunday at “54 Sings Rufus Wainwright.” Although Wainwright himself won’t be performing, his former keyboard player Jason Hart will serve as the show’s musical director.
With eight studio albums and an opera to his credit, the Canadian-born Wainwright, 44, boasts an indelible legacy among LGBTQ performers. Many of his best known songs, including “Oh What a World” and his 2001 cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” are defined by their lush, theatrical qualities ― making them ideal, performers say, for a cabaret-style interpretation.
Many of the “54 Sings Rufus Wainwright” performers cited the singer-songwriter’s willingness to challenge musical and social boundaries as a personal influence. “As an out queer performer, I’ve always looked up to Rufus ― one of the first out musicians I was aware of,” Mientus, who was recently seen on “The Flash,” told HuffPost. “I’d define him more by his artistry than his sexuality, but both speak to me and my experience, so I am doubly honored to sing one of his great tunes with this amazing group of people.”
Taylor, who is gearing up to return to Broadway this fall in the musical adaptation of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” echoed those sentiments.
“When I was a freshman in college, I came out of the closet and was embraced by a sort of gay fraternity of new friends. I was introduced to books and films and music that blew my mind,” he said. Citing 2003′s “Want One” and 2004′s “Want Two” as two of his favorite Wainwright albums, he added, “I know almost every word of every song in his canon.”
Many of Wainwright’s tunes have taken on new resonance in America’s divided political climate, too. Singer-actor Dave Thomas Brown, who appeared on Broadway in 2016′s “American Psycho,” told HuffPost he’ll be performing “Going to a Town” from Wainwright’s 2007 album, “Release the Stars,” because it “really does say musically how I’m feeling about the world right now, in a way I haven’t really been able to put into my own words yet.”
No doubt Wainwright’s devoted, cult-like legions of fans would agree.
CLARIFICATION: The original version of this article identified “Hallelujah” as a Jeff Buckley song. Though Buckley covered the song in 1994, it was originally performed by Leonard Cohen.