BWW Reviews: Endearing LIZA Minnelli Performs at Walt Disney Concert Hall
The one and only Liza Minnelli performed last night March 25 in Los Angeles, making her concert debut at the Walt Disney Hall downtown in her new show entitled Simply Liza. Her reception was incredible; with a multitude of standing ovations throughout from members of the packed house, it was obvious that the lady is still very much adored. In spite of some difficulty in walking and standing for a very long time, Liza gave her fans what they wanted, she put on one helluva show. She sat in a large director's chair while singing much of the time, kicking her feet in steady rhythms as if she were dancing. Later in the 100 minute one-act set she affectionately patted her chair and said she wanted to give it - her dear friend - a name. Adorable! Her rhythm, her intense passion for the music, the stage and for her audience is still very much a part of her. Liza is a true showman, has a fiercely funny sense of humor, loves being in front of her fans and adores her audience right back. When I saw her do The Act on Broadway in 1977, she amazed me with her vitality, stamina and nonstop dancing moves. Now some 40 years later, as much as I wanted to see the exact same Liza, it took me a while to realize... that I was. Her very presence lifted me and made me feel good. She is still amazing!
She gets her sense of humor from her mother, Judy Garland. It's definitely her own, but there were times I felt like I was watching Judy. In her later years, if Judy couldn't hit a high note, she would not raise her arm. She shared this tidbit with Jack Paar on his show. She was brutally honest and oh so lovable. When Liza doesn't quite hit or sustain the high notes, as with "New York, New York" - she made a whole humorous production out of anticipating the final bars - it doesn't matter, because she is Liza, she is there, never giving up, giving it her best shot, entertaining us through and through and for that alone, she merits our deepest appreciation and love.
Backing up Liza was remarkable musical director Billy Stritch at the piano. The other six stellar musicians were: Chip Wilson on bass, Brian Brake on drums, Bill Hayes on percussion, Ross Konikoff on trumpet, Dave Trigg also on trumpet and Dan Willis on reeds, many of whom have been with Liza throughout her performing years.
The show was a musical walk down memory lane through Liza's career with some very fine unforgettable moments. Highlights included: her opening "Teach Me Tonight", "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and a dizzyingly delightful rendition of "Liza with a Z", which Kander & Ebb had written especially for her early on. She performed a very sturdy "What Did I Have I Don't Have Now", a terrific "Maybe This Time" followed by a super great rendition of "Cabaret". Funny, funny, funny... when Liza got to the lyric line about Elsie dying "Well, that's what comes from too much pills and liquor", she stopped with a long frozen pause, bringing down the house. There were two sensational Charles Aznavour songs: "You've Let Yourself Go", about a couple who have magically been in love a long, long time and "What Makes a Man a Man", one of the most dramatic and touching stories through song... ever. Liza adored Aznavour and her interpretation of the latter was simply the best... she got up walked around and struck a theatrical pose from behind at song's beginning and end. Remarkable stuff! Also on tap were more Kander & Ebb greats, a feverishly happy "Ring Them Bells", and "The World Goes Round" - Liza's favorite. Up then, a lovely duet with Stritch on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love". Stritch directly preceded this with a delightfully jazzy solo "No Moon At All" featuring great solo moments on bass and drums.
Liza described quite intimately what was to have been her Broadway debut in 1962 A Little Night Music by lyricist Marshall Barer and music by Hugh Martin - she would have worked with Jeanette MacDonald. Sadly, MacDonald passed away and the show never got produced. Liza treated us to a song from that ill-fated show "On Such a Night As This", filled with precious allusions to Hollywood and to other celebrities besides Miss MacDonald, such as Judy Garland. Wonderful, delicious, riveting material!
As her encore, Liza chose "Every Time We Say Goodbye", which really brought out her genuine warmth, sincerity and unique way with a lyric. Liza Minnelli is still a dynamic, personal storyteller via song, an endearing performer whose passion is full and eternal. It's no wonder she is so loved and cherished by one and all!
(photo credit: Ruven Afanador)