Delayed by the pandemic, as so many things were, the Judy Garland Centennial Weekend is finally a go starting tomorrow night.
The Registry Theatre is hosting a talk by famed biographer John Fricke Friday night, followed by a concert with Mary-Catherine Pazzano on Saturday night that will explore Garland’s musical legacy. On Sunday, Fricke and Pazzano will host a special screening of Summer Stock at the Princess Cinemas in Waterloo.
“I would say out of all the concerts that I’ve ever prepped, this is probably the definition of labour of love or passion project,” said Pazzano. “It makes it probably the most excited I’ve ever been for a concert.
“I’ve been a Judy fan all my life. My parents said that when I watched the Wizard of Oz for the first time, I was about two years old and my eyes were just glued to the screen. I’ve remained a Judy fan for my whole life, her films and her concert work. Having become a singer myself, she’s become my number-one inspiration for how to deliver a lyric and how to commit yourself to really delivering a song.”
While the 100th anniversary of Garland’s birth was last year, the delay hasn’t curbed Pazzano’s enthusiasm in the least. Garland – or Frances Ethel Gumm as she was known then – was born June 10, 1922 in Minnesota. She would begin performing with her sisters at a very young age, eventually signing with MGM when she was 13. After a series of films, she sprang to fame in 1939 as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, the role for which she was most widely known.
Along with her Hollywood fame, Garland was acclaimed for her recordings and live concerts – in fact, she was the first woman to win a Grammy Award for ‘Album of the Year’ with her 1961 live recording, Judy at Carnegie Hall.
Though relatively short – Garland died June 22, 1969 at the age of 47 – her life provides plenty of material for Fricke, a two-time Emmy winner and noted Garland historian, as he travels from New York to open the weekend with “Centennial Judy: So Much More Than Dorothy!”
“When I was a kid, I would read the books about her by John Fricke. About nine years ago, we actually met, because he was speaking at a classic movie festival that I had tickets for in Hollywood. We met and had a great chat. We exchanged emails and said ‘Let’s keep in touch.’ Over the years, we would do that, and I was trying to think of ways to maybe bring him to Canada, because he’s never really done an official event here,” said Pazzano, noting the idea emerged to celebrate the centennial of Garland’s birth with music and a talk about her life.
“She didn’t live long, but her career was decades long – she started when she was two or three, so there’s still so much material that her talent speaks for itself.”
For her concert April 22 – “Centennial Judy: A Love Letter in Song” – Pazzano will use the first act to cover the MGM years, the likes of her films with Mickey Rooney, Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Harvey Girls and Easter Parade.
The second part of the show will be dedicated to her post-MGM career, including A Star is Born, her TV show and her concert recordings.
“That will speak to her Grammy-winning live album, Judy at Carnegie Hall, which a lot of reviewers at the time called the greatest night in showbiz history. So bringing to light those arrangements from that era of her life, that will be the second act.”
Overall, the weekend will have something of a TCM feel to it, incorporating biographical information, a hosted screening of a movie and Garland’s legendary music.
“On the Sunday afternoon at the Princess Twin, when we screen Summer Stock, John will introduce that movie for us and give some context into the film as it pertains to her career,” said Pazzano of the screening with Fricke.
“It was her final movie that she made at MGM, with one of her best leading men, Gene Kelly – it’s my personal favourite Garland movie. We’ll lead a Q&A together after the screening of that movie, so he is a key entity to kind of bring us through as our guide for that weekend,” she added of Fricke’s role as biographer and historian.
The Judy Garland Centennial Weekend kicks off Friday (April 21) at 8 p.m. with Fricke’s talk, “Centennial Judy: So Much More Than Dorothy!” at The Registry Theatre. Tickets are $15 or free with a purchase of a ticket to the Saturday night concert.
On Saturday, Pazzano takes to the Registry stage at 8 p.m. Tickets for “Centennial Judy: A Love Letter in Song” are $35.
Visit www.registrytheatre.com or call 519-578-1570.
On Sunday, Fricke and Pazzano host a screening of Summer Stock at 2 p.m. at the Princess Twin Cinemas: www.princesscinemas.com.