“And all around me I hear voices that I can’t ignore,
The voices of the stars who played the Palace long before.
The stars who entertained you until the rafters rang —
You don’t need their names, for the whole world acclaims them
For the wonderful songs they sang…”
~Roger Edens, introduction to the "Judy at the Palace Medley"
As someone who spends a lot of her time listening to voices emerging from scratchy recordings and then trying to inhabit them, these lines were insistently reaching out to me every time I got to this point in Judy Garland's recording of her "Judy at the Palace Medley." It was some time back in the autumn of 2015, and I was trying to decide which tune to add next to my Garland repertoire — either to the second half of my Symphonic Pops concert or to my nascent cabaret show. I'd been “auditioning” a lot of numbers from her many post-1950 recordings, but this one was having the same dramatic effect on me every time I heard it...
…And I was resisting it tooth and nail. Despite feeling an undeniable connection to it, there was the very real worry that a nearly-seven-minute song about long-gone Vaudevillians wouldn’t play to a 21st-century audience. As my husband said, it’s one thing when you’re Judy Garland, and quite another when you’re not! And, of course, when Judy revived Vaudeville for a record-smashing 19-week run at the Palace Theatre in 1951, the audience would have remembered all of the originators of the songs in the medley as clearly as today’s audiences would remember Michael Jackson and Madonna — in fact, some of those Vaudevillians were still very much alive and sitting in the theater on opening night listening to her sing about them.Read More