FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Liza & Steve
Bringing together the subject of this week's InDepth InterView, Liza Minnelli, and this week's Sound Off, Stephen Sondheim, is today's Flashback Friday taking a look at some fantastically spectacular performances of Ms. Minnelli singing and words and music of Stephen Sondheim throughout the years. A song from FOLLIES given a Pet Shop Boys face-lift, a trip down MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG lane, a jazzy Mel Torme gem from DICK TRACY and a lot more than you could have ever wished for given the blazing talent and astonishing accomplishments of both legends. When Sondheim's intellectual artistry meets Liza's extroverted actorly introspection it is a combustible combination with the results more mind-blowing than you would ever even think possible even loving both! Indeed, both individuals are the very, very best of Broadway. So, see why when they meet it is pure Broadway magic.
Hey, Old Friends
Besides the 1992 SONDHEIM: A CELEBRATION AT Carnegie Hall and the errant "Some People" from GYPSY or "Losing My Mind" from FOLLIES here or there, Liza Minnelli could very well do an evening of Sondheim if she wanted since she has performed relatively little of his material over the years. Yet, she hasn't chosen to do so. Yet. So, we have something to look forward to since seemingly everyone else has done a night of Sondheim's songs, but, until then, we have these marvelous clips of Minnelli On Sondheim. In my conversation with Ms. Minnelli last week, this comment which will be a part of the complete InDepth InterView: Liza Minnelli, we talked a bit about that momentous night that also hosted unforgettable performances from Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, Betty Buckley, Glenn Close and Karen Ziemba. Above all others was Miss Minnelli and after premiering the ravishing, repressed Paul Simon-esque pop song that is "Water Under The Bridge" - composed for the abandoned William Goldman/Rob Reiner/Stephen Sondheim original movie-musical SINGING OUT LOUD that never got off the ground, though Sondheim wrote six or seven songs, at least, most in a modern pop/rock-type idiom with a little Broadway brass thrown in - she simply raised the roof of Radio City Music Hall into the stratosphere with a no-holds-barred sexy tap extravaganza version of "Back In Business" from DICK TRACY (choreographed by Susan Stroman) to close out the first act on the ultimate high of highs. The evening itself found its penultimate performance - and preserved theatrical history in the meeting of the two legends on film for the first time - in Ms. Minnelli's famous rendition of "Old Friends" from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, which she had been performing in her concert act (most recently then at Radio City Music Hall to much hubub and deserved praise) to much acclaim as part of a medley with another DICK TRACY song, "Live Alone And Like It" which was introduced in the 1990 Warren Beatty-directed film by the Velvet Fog himself, Mel Torme. Liza and Steve are no strangers and it should come as no surprise to Broadway babies that they have a mutual respect for each other's work and that admiration shines through in these marvelous clips - and in the full DVD of SONDHEIM: A CELEBRATION AT Carnegie Hall which is a true must-own, perhaps the very best Sondheim concert ever captured on video (and the only, in the US at least). And with Ms. Minnelli you know you are always in the very best - and jazziest - hands!
Here is Liza Minnelli in her Radio City Music Hall concert doing "Old Friends" from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG complete with a hilarious story and a fast-paced interpolation of "Live Alone And Like It" from DICK TRACY. Both those scores have Sondheim writing in a very specific style so it is a satisfying surprise to hear that they work so well together as they do in this marvelous medley. Indeed, the combination of the two numbers is truly exciting and the resulting song is something unexpectedly effervescent and enjoyable, perhaps even more than either song on their own has ever even been. It's a one-of-a-kind interpretation from a one-in-a-million performer. See if you don't agree!
From that same unforgettable entertainment event at Radio City - Miss Minnelli was simply on fire, blazing that night, firing from all axels - comes this clip of Ms. Minnelli performing "Some People" from GYPSY (music by Jule Styne, of course). Some people say this is the best the song has ever been done - whether by Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters or Patti LuPone - and I have to agree. See why! And how! And wow! What a Rose Liza would make!
Our last When-Liza-Met-Steve moment comes from Liza Minnelli's 1989 Pet Shop Boys collaboration RESULTS which spawned this UK Top Ten hit techno reworking of Sondheim's "Losing My Mind" from FOLLIES. Never has the song sounded quite like this, but it is a credit to the durability of Sondheim's songs that a version this unique and different could work so well and reveal new sides of what the song is really about. To say nothing of the silvery-sounding, impassioned delivery. Miss Minnelli is always the consummate actress first and foremost - above all else - and the Sally (Durant Plummer, not to be confused with Bowles) that sings this "Losing My Mind" is a sad, confused but not completely indomitable and bereft Sally. She has hope. Or, is what she thinks is hope just some sort of madness? Such is the sort of question this Neil Tennant produced version of the Sondheim ballad queries - and, as with much of Sondheim, questions lead to more questions. Whatever the case, how can you not love Liza in this oh-so-80s performance from Top of the Pops in 1989? What a treat! Yes, you're welcome!
Stay tuned until the final Friday next month when we will be discussing and showcasing even more clips from Ms. Minnelli's remarkable career - some fun. some fascinating, all fantastic and one quite unexpected and surprising! Coming soon!
That's all for this week. Please remember that if you have discovered a particularly thrilling, unique, bizarre or hilarious Broadway-related clip to please send us a line at the link below. Until next week…
From This Author Pat Cerasaro