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Rufus Wainwright Serenades NYC's Prospect Park

There is something to be a said about an open-air concert, especially when Rufus Wainwright and family are involved. The atmosphere at the Prospect Park Bandshell benefit show was less fabulous cabaret, more romantic picnic under the stars (even though not a single star put in an appearance).

After a quirky and personable set by Rufus' father, Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus sat down to begin a low-key program on a gorgeous Steinway piano as dragonflies the size of small birds flew over the audience. Chatty and obviously happy-to-be-here, Rufus showed off his piano prowess with the wistful "Poses" and "Grey Gardens." When not charming the crowd with between-song banter (did you know he used to live in Park Slope back when he was a "pregnant lesbian"?), he swayed over the keys, a green cloth carnation tucked in his vest buttonhole -- very Oscar Wilde.

Before playing "Sonnet 20" off his latest album, Songs for Lulu, and part of his project with stage-director Robert Wilson, Rufus recited the sonnet, which was written by Shakespeare for a beautiful young boy. Ah, to be that youth. Inviting his father, Loudon, and his acoustic guitar out for a song or two, Rufus dueted with him on "One Man Guy." Rufus's sister Martha, unfortunately, was unable to join them.

"Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," a definite crowd-pleaser, and the less exuberant "Going to a Town" also got a turn in the Bandshell. But most exciting of all may have been the handful of Judy Garland songs that Rufus picked to serenade us with. Accompanied only by piano, he showed off his voice by belting out "The Man That Got Away." The evening wound down with several standing ovations, encores, Garland's ballad "You Made Me Love You," and the moving "The Walking Song" written by his mother, Kate McGarrigle, who passed away in January. All in all -- a pitch-perfect way to spend a balmy summer's evening.


> New Music for the Wednesday Hump

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Noah Michelson