Meet Me in St. Judy

"A Judy Garland Christmas"

Every party needs a hostess, and local impresario Marc Huestis happily cops to the title. "Hostess" Huestis is famous for his camp-drag movie extravaganzas at the Castro, with John Waters, Christina Crawford, and Patty "Bad Seed" McCormack among past honorees (or victims, depending on your viewpoint). This year Huestis mines the mother lode with "A Judy Garland Christmas."

The centerpiece is surprising for this venue -- Meet Me in St. Louis is more classic than camp, a bittersweet holiday musical directed by Vincente Minnelli as a Currier & Ives lithograph come to life. The film is celebrated for its sprightly dialogue, painterly color schemes, endearing eccentrics, and infectious tunes like "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." It's also a kind of parallel-universe Wizard of Oz, echoing the familiar message "There's no place like home," though a mysterious, never-glimpsed New York City stands in for Oz. No tornadoes disrupt the idyllic life here; instead it's Judy's bogeyman father who threatens to move the family from its beloved St. Louis to the Big Apple. Judy is enchanting in her musical numbers and equally effective in the dramatic scenes, five years after Oz and quite a while before she was enshrined as a human pill box and the ultimate queer icon.

Meet Me in St. Louis is too genuine to qualify as camp, but Huestis offers curdled Castro-ites compensation in the form of local songbird Connie Champagne, who'll reanimate poor Judy through the magic of makeup and mimicry (and perhaps wires and electricity). Of course, no such show would be complete without drag queens. Expect them in force, raging armies of Judies and Lizas and less identifiable drag divas careening up and down the Castro's sticky aisles as though they were Paris runways. Watch for video surprises, a flashy star turn by the incomparable Matthew Martin, and a live appearance by Judy's otherdaughter, Lorna Luft, aka the anti-Liza, interviewed by that milliner's dream, Jan Wahl.

A Visit From St. Dick marionette show gets down and dirty with 
the Xmas spirit.
A Visit From St. Dick marionette show gets down and dirty with the Xmas spirit.

"A Judy Garland Christmas" goes on with full fanfare Friday at 7 p.m., plus a screening of Meet Me in St. Louis Saturday at 1 p.m., at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Tickets are $15-20 ($7 Saturday); call 621-6120.

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