Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Catching The Act
On Sunday, we finally saw Liza at the Palace. In case you've been hiding under a rock (or are devoutly heterosexual), it may be necessary to explain that Liza Minnelli is currently experiencing the most triumphant comeback since...well, Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall. "Liza at the Palace" will, no doubt, become a legendary pop culture phrase unto itself, the way that "Judy at Carnegie Hall" has. (Let's just hope that dear Liza, long though she may wave, is long gone before she's forced to watch Rufus Wainwright recreate the whole thing. We're sorry, he's just creepy. And, well, we frankly could have done a better Judy. Just saying.)
The two basic questions that must be answered are, How does she sound? and How does she look? Our reply: the rafter-ringing Liza of old is back, and she looks stunning. Really. It's not just the weight loss; she also seems happier and healthier and more vital than before. The vocal highlights: a languid, torchy rendition of Billie Holiday's "He's Funny That Way"; "My Own Best Friend" from Chicago, the show in which Liza famously replaced Gwen Verdon for five legendary weeks (Minnelli wonders aloud why this number was dropped from the movie; the logical answer is that no one could possibly touch her interpretation); Charles Aznavour's period piece, "What Makes a Man a Man?"; the "Palace Medley" originally written and arranged by Roger Edens for Mama in 1951; and a pristine, just-like-in-the-movie "But the World Goes 'Round."
In the second act, a large portion of which is devoted to the sophisticated material of her godmother, Kay Thompson, Liza is joined by her boys: Cortes Alexander, Jim Caruso, Tiger Martina, and Johnny Rodgers, subbing for The Williams Brothers, who accompanied La Thompson in her celebrated nightclub act. It's a tribute to these fellows that they more than hold their own alongside the Force of Nature Called Liza, each one adding something unique to the mix: Alexander's infectious ebullience; Caruso's dapper, unflappable elegance; Martina's animal magnetism (alas, we have yet to find such a Tiger in our tank); and Rodgers' boy-next-door charm and creamy, dreamy crooner's voice.
Also deserving special mention: Ray Klausen's gorgeous set design; Matt Berman's spectacular lighting; director/choreographer Ron Lewis for pulling it all together; and Liza's musical arranger/pianist, Billy Stritch, who is a diva's best friend -- undoubtedly on speed dial, along with the furrier and the divorce lawyer.
Speaking of furriers, one thing we love about attending a Liza performance is that we can rest easy and assured that, no matter our sartorial choices, we'll never be the most flashily-dressed in the audience. Our mink scarf was an obvious accessory, of course; but it was swallowed whole, and then some, when Andre Leon Talley made his entrance down the center aisle, wearing his mink scarf and whatever sequins that were leftover after Liza had her costumes made. (Also spotted: Francisco Costa, the adorable creative director for Calvin Klein.)
We've often remarked that Liza on a bad day puts on a better show than most people on their best day; so seeing her jubilant and revived and on a very, very good day is something to shout about, indeed. Clap yo' hands, Liza's back, and we've got her.