Monday, February 17, 2014

Regarding the Liza Minnelli show in Hollywood


There was once a time in my life when I believed that Liza Minnelli would die before I got to see her in concert.

That time was basically all of the 90's and early 00's. It was during that time that she suffered through hip replacements, brain encephalitis, and a marriage to David Gest-- all of which were pretty equally traumatic. The point is, she and I were a bit touch-and-go there for a while. She eventually sailed through her surgeries, conquered the viral encephalitis which most doctor's thought was going to be her undoing, and beat/divorced David Gest.

None of which, of course, was surprising to those who love Liza because she's made a career out of being the comeback kid. She is, after all, Judy's daughter.

So it is with great pride and a little boasting that I admit to having seen Liza Minnelli in concert twice now.

During last night's show at the Broward Center for Performing Arts in Hollywood, Liza absolutely dazzled her audience. Having hurt her ankle earlier, she held court over everyone from the comfort of a director's chair. In many ways, having her seated added an intimate feel to the show-- like we were sitting in her living room, listening to her casually sing songs of love and loss. Proving once more that she can rise above anything, she did the entire set with more guts and gusto than I have ever seen.

At 67, Liza remains a consummate entertainer. She is funny, fearless, and enthusiastically humble about her shortcomings (of which there are very few). Backed by the incomparable Billy Stritch and her six-piece band, Liza's shows span an almost 60-year career in the music business. From the stages of Broadway and "Cabaret" to the heights of Hollywood, Liza does it all and does it oh-so well. Sure, her voice is not what it once was, but she leaves her heart and soul on that stage.

That said, I can put Liza's songs in one of two categories: jazzy songs that she can sing and powerhouse show-stoppers that she tries to sing. Although most people want to hear the show-stoppers, she is at her absolute best during the softer, jazzier numbers from her album Confessions. Songs like "You Fascinate Me So", "On Such a Night as This", and "I Hadn't Anyone 'til You" showcase a careworn voice that adds truth and melancholy to the words it sings. Like her mother before her, Liza excels at selling sadness.

This is not to discount the other songs; the songs that made her a legend in her own right. Although she has lost the ability to belt out the big notes, Liza can still wail. She just needs a couple of sips of water(?) in between those big notes. She continually tries to reach for the moon in big songs like "Maybe This Time", "But the World Goes Round", and "New York, New York" but falls short. Still, the effort leaves us all floating among the stars.

My favorite moment of the show was also the most surprising. Perched atop the director's chair, Liza told us this truly terrific, absolutely true story! Yes ladies and germs, she did "Ring Them Bells"! She remembered all the words and hit all the marks of the song like it was 1972. She even wore Shirley Devore's sunglasses. It was a magical moment for anyone who knows and loves that song.

It's moments like those that will keep me coming back to Liza anytime she's in town. As a grand dame of stage and screen, sitting or standing, she remains as ever a beacon of star power.


No comments: