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Liza Makes History in Las Vegas

If it's possible, Liza Minnelli made the neon on the Las Vegas Strip so much brighter on Sunday morning, November 26, when she came onstage at the Luxor Hotel and Casino there to revive the now-vanished tradition of the "gypsy performance," a 1 a.m. show for show people.

If you think about it, it is kind of odd — this show inside a pyramid. But this is Las Vegas, so there is no reason to dwell on that at all. Liza came out glittering in pink sequins and for the next two hours (and probably for hours to come), the 1,200 people in the theater could think of nothing but her.

The gypsy performance is an old tradition that she took part in back in the day with Sammy Davis, Jr. There was a sense this night of importance — not only was the audience seeing a performer of monumental importance in modern musical theater, but there was the palpable hope that this would be the first of many such occasions in Las Vegas .

Opening with I Can See Clearly Now, a strong personal message well-delivered, Liza was unstoppable (not that anyone tried). She talked constantly to the audience, calling them "my babies," and they lapped up every word.

It was a more personal show than her usual. Sipping Gatorade ("It builds up electrolytes and gets all that s*** out of your body. Always wanted to say s*** on the stage and with you, I can.") and showing off her newly svelte figure, she sang Kander and Ebb's "Sara Lee." There was a lot of Kander and Ebb, in fact. And, when it's Liza Minnelli, that's just perfect.

Recalling the film "Cabaret," she sang "So What, " the world-weary number Lotte Lenya did on Broadway. She talked about how she subbed for Gwen Verdon in the original "Chicago" and sang what could be another personal anthem, "I Am My Own Best Friend."

Minnelli never stopped. In the two hours she was on, she radiated renewal, and the strength that has likely seen her through some pretty bad times. She clearly loves what she's doing and is absolutely at home onstage.

Don't believe that? Well, all I can tell you is that when she called her friend Terry White up to sing, the song was "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Watching, Liza wept and, after, talked to the audience. She stopped midsentence and announced, "I can't see a damned thing," whereupon she removed her lashes, laying them to rest on the piano. Now, that's being at ease onstage.

She later brought up her friend Sam Harris and they duetted on a lovely "Happy Days Are Here Again."

Her orchestra was outstanding. As she left for a costume change (fabulous black sequin top, stretchy velvet pants and more comfortable shoes) they took over, each doing a solo. They do her justice and, in return, she was effusive in her praise.

It was clear, in fact, that Liza Minnelli loves performers, believes in them as an almost article of faith. If this morning's show is to be believed, she must be as excellent an audience as she is a performer.

At the end, after singing "Cabaret," she asked the crowd's permmission (as if she needed it as they were totally hers) to skip "New York New York" and, instead, closed with "I'll Be Seeing You,"

We hope so, Liza, we really do and cannot wait.

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