BWW Reviews: Liza with an 'L' for Legend: Minnelli Delights Fort Lauderdale
What's a sure sign a performer is a legend?
She gets a standing ovation before opening her mouth.
So began the concert SIMPLY LIZA, Sunday night, February 16, at Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. The first glimpse of Liza Minnelli on stage caused the audience to leap to their feet and heap on the kind of applause usually reserved for encores.
And although Minnelli opened with the classic, "Teach Me Tonight", it was the audience that got a 90-minute lesson in star power.
Accompanied by the incomparable pianist and musical director Billy Stritch, and backed a six-man band in white dinner jackets, Minnelli performed pop standards with a decidedly torchy bent as well as songs that bear her own unique stamp.
Clad in black pants and silky black top punctuated by a floor length red scarf, Minnelli alternated between sitting in a tall director's chair --- she was having trouble with her ankle, she told the audience --- and standing center stage.
Minnelli followed her opener with a medley of "Here I'll Stay" and "Our Love is Here to Stay", and then showed her whimsical side on the Kander and Ebb tune written for her, "Liza with a Z".
Minnelli has a quality that draws out the audience's protective nature. Whether it was a cough or a rush of emotion that caused her to falter during "Our Love is Here to Stay", no one cared. The fact that she overcame and soldiered on just gave the audience more reason to root for her.
Minnelli's two signature songs from CABARET, "Maybe This Time" and "Cabaret", came at the show's halfway mark. She nailed "Maybe This Time", capturing the emotion and bringing the song from a slow simmer to a full on buoyant boil. For "Cabaret", Minnelli drew cheers when she changed the lyric, proclaiming that she was not going to end up a poor, pill-popping alcoholic like Elsie from Chelsea. The moment underscored that Minnelli is survivor, which is clearly one thing her fans love about her.
After the Cabaret songs, Minnelli relaxed, letting Stritch take the spotlight with "No Moon at All". The two, who have collaborated for 23 years, duetted on a sweet version of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love".
Minnelli donned oversized glasses to sing Kander and Ebb's "Ring Them Bells", delighting the audience with the story of Shirley Devore, who traveled 'round the world to meet the guy next door.
The quiet moments of the concert were punctuated with shouts of, "We love you Liza!" from the audience. Minnelli always acknowledged those declarations, and replied with a heartfelt, "I love you too."
She turned storyteller for "On Such a Night as This" drawing the audience in for a tale of old Hollywood, and then turned belter for a rousing rendition of "But the World Goes Round", another Kander and Ebb composition written specifically for Minnelli.
She delivered big time on her anthematic closer, "New York, New York", and when she flubbed the lines or notes at the end, she stopped the band several times so she could get it right, quipping that she was getting to New York by way of Connecticut.
Minnelli perched on Stritch's piano bench for her encore, the touching "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" by Cole Porter, before leaving the stage arm in arm with Stritch. The standing ovation that greeted her carried her off, and she blew a kiss before disappearing into the wings.
Minnelli is the rare performer whose audience will stick with her no matter what. As long as she keeps showing up to sing, her fans will keep showing up to listen. That's star power. And that's what legends are made of.