TORONTO — It opened with Rufus Wainwright singing “I Hate Men” from Cole Porter’s 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate and ended with an all-star version of “Summer Nights” from the 1971 musical Grease.
In between, Saturday night’s If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway featured Wainwright singing duets with the likes of Josh Groban, David Byrne and Boy George.
The show, part of Toronto’s Luminato Festival, was filled with humour and same-sex renditions of iconic love songs from Broadway musicals from Annie Get Your Gun to Chess.
Wainwright, who created the show with musical director Stephen Oremus, performed “People Will Say We’re in Love” from Oklahoma with Byrne; “If I Loved You” from Carousel with Groban; and “We Kiss a Shadow” from The King and I with Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig.
There were also duets with Brennan Hall, Steven Page and Brent Carver — the latter a replacement for Broadway star Andrew Rannells.
“These songs are a testament to everything that’s great and good about Classic American pop culture,” Wainwright explained in the program notes.
The son of singers Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle added: “Growing up with my Mom in Canada, my somewhat typical Montreal upbringing was thankfully peppered with occasional weekend trips to visit dad in New York City. A night out to a Broadway musical was often a major ingredient of a delicious all-American weekend recipe — very very much the icing on the cake actually.
“From the age of seven through nine, I really thought I would be playing Annie on Broadway.”
The theatre was hushed as Wainwright spoke about the acceptance of gay people and then sang “Somewhere” from West Side Story: “There’s a place for us / A time and place for us / Hold my hand / And we’re halfway there.”
After he and Boy George gave new meaning to “You’re the Top” from Anything Goes, Wainwright surprised the Culture Club singer with an audience sing-along of “Happy Birthday.” Boy George, celebrating his 53rd, then blew out the candles on a cake that was brought out on stage.
“@globalnews 53, f*** I look 100! Lol!”
Saturday’s show had at least one mic misstep (prompting Wainwright to order the orchestra to start over), some shaky vocals (notably Byrne) and some obvious reading of lyrics from the TelePromTers facing the stage — but the audience appeared to love every moment.
BELOW: Check out some photos from If I Loved You: Gentlemen Prefer Broadway.