Monday, December 22, 2008

With Z Intact, Liza Returns to Broadway

On Saturday night, Michael and I saw the legendary Liza Minnelli at the Palace Theatre. Believe it or not, I'm not what you would call a full-on "Liza queen." The only recording of hers that I only own is "Results," the album she made in the late '80s with the Pet Shop Boys, which in and of itself makes me an entirely different kind of queen. And while I greatly appreciate her gay icon mother, Judy Garland, I haven't seen many of her films and don't know the words to many of her songs. Yet the second I saw Liza, now 62 and on at least her seventh or eighth life, was back -- on Broadway -- I immediately bought tickets. I may not be obsessive about her but I know enough to appreciate that they just don't make 'em like this anymore, old-fashioned, vaudeville-bred, hard-working entertainers, that is. And Liza did not disappoint. Looking fit and ready to go, she opened strong with "Teach Me Tonight" and never looked back. Sure, she faked her way through some of the high notes. And sure, she had to take breaks and sit down here and there. But there wasn't a second she was on stage that you didn't feel like she was giving you -- her audience -- everything she had to make sure you had a good time. And if the 20-some standing ovations were any indication, a good time was had by all. I can't remember the set list, but "I Would Never Leave You," "Maybe This Time," "He's Funny That Way," a recreation of her mother's "Palace Medley," and, of course, "Cabaret" and "New York, New York" were all highlights. (No "Say Liza (Liza With a Z)" or songs from "Results," in case you're wondering.)

The second act was a tribute to her godmother, Kay Thompson (whom my sister and I adored in "Funny Face"), in which Liza recreates the famed MGM vocal coach and "Eloise" author's cabaret act she performed at Ciro's in Hollywood with the Williams brothers back in '48. Although I was unfamiliar with most of the material, during "Jubilee Time," "Clap Yo' Hands" and "I Love a Violin," Liza and her four male backups performed with so much joy and enthusiasm that you couldn't help but get swept away in their excitement. In between songs, Liza's memories of Kay, who lived in Liza's Upper East Side penthouse until her death in 1998, were heartfelt, and you got the impression that Kay was a larger-than-life Auntie Mame type who managed to bring some much-needed straight-talk into Liza's chaotic life.

There were many memorable moments about the show, but none more so than hearing Liza sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," the classic holiday song her mother introduced to the world in "Meet Me in St. Louis" back in 1944. When I performed it with the Rhodes Chorale honors choir back in junior high, we sang the revised (Frank Sinatra) lyrics. But Liza, of course, sang her mother's more melancholy version. And for one brief moment on a cold winter's night just before Christmas, it was as if it her mother were alive to dazzle us, once more ...

(Photos via NYT)


Richard Wall said...

Darling, you should be writing reviews for the NY Times!! What a touching tribute you have created! Thanks so much for mentioning Judy, too. Love you. Richard

Reviews For Jake said...

"A" Great posting. "B" I met Liza while working on an episode of Arrested Development and she was FREAKIN' BRILLIANT! Talked to everybody, LOOKED in everyone's eyes and then would scream for make up upon which time as the make up artist would run up with a powder puff to prevent her from getting shiny, Liza would swat it away and ask for a god damned cigarette.

Good times.

Anonymous said...

Great review! I truly agree with you Richard. And, yes, thank you for mentioning Judy and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" I would have been in tears listening to Liza sing this song! Maybe a trip to NY is in order!

Timmy said...

The only Liza cd I own is Results and my favorite song is Losing My Mind.

Sounds like it was a great show. There are some legends that are worth seeing even if you haven't been a longtime fan.

For instance, the only reason I went to see Cinderella was because Eartha Kitt was the fairygodmother. I had no interest in seeing Don't Call Me Debbie Deborah Gibson.

Alex said...

Excellent review. Ending with "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" struck me. It really says a lot about the times we are living in.

Happy Holidays.

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