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BWW Interview: Get Happy! LORNA LUFT Opens Up About The Judy Garland Songbook And More

The McCallum Theatre presents "Lorna Luft Sings the Judy Garland Songbook" on Tuesday, February 14, at 8:00pm. Lorna Luft's career has encompassed virtually every area of entertainment. A celebrated live performer; stage, film and television actress; best-selling author; recording artist and Emmy-nominated producer, she triumphs in every medium.Born to Judy Garland and producer Sid Luft, music and entertainment were part of her childhood. At age 11, she made her television debut singing on her mother's series, "The Judy Garland Show." At 16, already a seasoned performer, she shared the bill with her mother on Broadway in a month long concert engagement at New York's Palace Theater. I had the chance to chat with Ms. Luft as she was preparing for her upcoming engagement in the desert. Her are some excerpts from the conversation:

DG: You have been described by the press and critics and even social media over the years with so many wonderful superlatives - how do you describe yourself?

LL: Oh my gosh ... I guess the only way I could describe myself is someone that lives right in the present. Umm, I really don't look at my past and I really don't look too much to the future because I find that's sort or redundant. I really live right in the present. I live right in the now. I guess that's the only way to describe myself.

DG: Coming from an enormously celebrated entertainment family - when did you really know in your heart that this was something you wanted to pursue as a career?

LL: I guess I was around twelve years old. You know, when you come from a family of lawyers there's a likelihood you're going to be a lawyer and if you come from a family of doctors - I don't think what I did was unusual. I just went into the family business. And, it's not something I find unusual. My whole family, to me, was not unusual because it was my normal. I didn't know any different. So when people have asked me over the years what it was like - they get overwhelmed because they find it so fascinating, but I don't find it overwhelming because you are a product of where you came from.

DG:This upcoming show "The Judy Garland Songbook" must be very personal for you. How did you choose the songs you wanted to sing to honor your mother, and what can audiences expect from the show?

LL: This is a show that is incredibly personal to me. And, this is a show that allows me the opportunity to sing with my mother. This show also allows me to be grateful for who I am and what I was left, and this incredible library of music that I am grateful to have as a part of my legacy. And that's what this show does. It's personal. And it's something I did for not only my children - but, now, I have three grandchildren - so the circle continues and the story goes on. That's why this show is important to me. Because we've all heard these songs. and my mom sang these songs, but how do they now relate to me? And why did it take me this long to feel comfortable in singing this? Because it took me a really long time.

DG: Is there one song in the songbook that particularly feels like it's your song - that you hold more dear than others?

LL: Yeah. I would imagine that the end song in the show - and I don't want to give it away - but the song I sing at the end of the show is really mine.

DG:What would you consider the highlight of your incredible career, so far?

LL: You know, every time I go out on a stage I consider myself very lucky. Because, in a time where people are economically thinking about what to go and see - so, when I am on a stage, and it doesn't matter where I am, that's my favorite show. I come home after and say "That was my favorite show". Because, again, I live in the moment - if I said that my favorite show WAS something, that's not going to mean as much to me as the show that I've got coming up. So I think every show I do, whether I am doing eight shows a week of a Broadway show ... I think, "that's a show I'll never get back" ... I go home at night and I think to myself, "that was my favorite".

DG:Tell me something about you that people would never know by looking at your resume.

LL: Oh my gawd. You know, I don't know. There are things that I ... I don't know what that would be. As far as - I've been written about for so long that there's not a lot that people don't know about me. Maybe people don't know I'm a news junkie? I watch and I tape a breadth of everything that's happening in the world, and that fascinates me. I don't know what else people don't know about me. I'm really an open book.

DG:You had an extraordinary triumph over cancer. Did that experience change you or your perspective on life and career in any way?

LL: Yeah, it did. And what it did was that was the moment where I learned to live in the moment. I think that when you're in your twenties you think about your future, when you're in your thirties you're raising kids and you think about their future, but when you get to a time when you are diagnosed with any kind of life altering illness, what did you take away from it? And what I took away from it was how to live in the "now". And that relates to the show that I'm doing - because it took me so long to do this - to be able to sing these songs when everybody else and their brother were singing these songs - and, they were singing the songs from a way different perspective than I sing them in this show. They sing the songs because, "A", they love the material and they love that these were written for my mom or they relate to the songs and all that - when it started, for me, I ran away from it for so long because it was so painful because it reminded me she wasn't here. So, it was so personal. When I was able to do this, because it took me so long to stand on a stage and to finally be able to say this is where I come from and these songs are part of my mother's legacy,my legacy, my children's legacy, my grand-children's legacy - how special is that?

DG: Would you want to go back on Broadway again.

LL: Uh, yeah ... I would. You know, I have to say, I am extraordinarily - and I just said this in my London show - I'm extraordinarily honored and proud when I am told that I am part of the Broadway community and part of the Broadway family. Because, Broadway is a family. And it doesn't matter if you did one show or if you did fifty shows. The Broadway community is unlike any community in show business and it is unlike any community in the world. When you come into the Broadway community they open the door and they say "welcome". Not only do they do that, but when times are really tough and horrendous things have happened and really tragic things - the Broadway community shows up! And they say "how can we help?". And it's one phone call from one person. And it happened to me when I was going to do The Pink Party (for Breast Cancer). I made one phone call and everyone I called not only said "yeah, we'll be there - but, who else do you want?". And that's what makes the Broadway community so special to me. And that's why I am so proud. I did my first Broadway show when I was nineteen years old - and to be able to say that I am still working with the incredible talents of all of the creative teams that I have been able to work with - that's so special to me. The movie community is not a real community, only because you become that family for the shoot but then you go on to another movie or to something else - but it's not like - you SEE each other on the streets of New York or you see each other at New 42 - I'm walking down 42nd Street or 43rd Street or I go in to Joe Allen or if I go into - I can see people from shows that I've done there with people I've done shows with - when you do a Broadway show and you get embraced, you come "home". It's really true.

DG:What would you still like to accomplish on your career bucket list?

LL: Not that I haven't done - I think the one thing that I'd like to achieve, and because when you're in show business no matter what you're doing it's an insecure business - one day you're standing up thanking The Tony Committee and then, you know, a couple of years later you're unemployed and all that - we all know how insecure the world of show is ... the only thing that I love is security. I can't bear to hear somebody bitching that they're on a TV series. I'd like to strangle them, you know? Are you kidding me? I don't like to hear anybody in show business complain, because I just find it to be such a grateful business. Because there are so many wonderful, creative souls out there and there are so few jobs. And, so, I just find myself thinking to myself "wow, if I could get into a show of any kind and have it last for a while" - that's when I find myself really happy.

DG:What advice might you offer to young people who want to pursue a career in professional theatre?

LL: Okay, My feeling about young people who want to pursue a career is - the first thing is do your homework on where it all started. Go back and look at history. Look at why the shows you are loving today happened and the artists you are listening to happened. And do your homework on history. Whether it's musical movies, musical plays, Broadway musical recordings - do your homework! And then, that way you will have an understanding of why, now, certain movies, certain plays, certain musicals are making some sort of sense. The second piece of advice I would give - hang on to your family, and hang on to your reality - and hang on to your "real". Because you're going into the land of make believe. Because when you really think about what we do it's pretty funny, and it's pretty scary. We put on make-up and want to be different people. Being an actor is really - it's, it's odd. So, don't take that as your - take your family, take your friends, take your relationships - that's your reality. And hang on to them. Because you're never going to know whether you're going to be in that show or whether you're going to be in a white apron saying "the special of the day is"... And that's advice that I tell young people because there's so much, I guess I want to say, nonsense about show business now. Because of reality television. I don't get this, because I was never raised to get this, but I don't understand wanting to be famous. Maybe it's because I was born famous, but I don't get it. I understand wanting to do your craft. I understand wanting to have a passion for your art and for your ability to be an actor, to be a singer, to be a dancer - that I understand. Wanting to be famous - I don't get that, But that's where we're living right now. My friend, Andy Warhol, really said it - everybody's gonna be famous for fifteen minutes. If he only could see - I don't know what he'd feel - he'd probably love it, knowing Andy.

Lorna Luft sings The Judy Garland Songbook on Valentines Day at 8 pm at The McCallum Theatre. Tickets for this performance are $97, $77, $57 and $37. Tickets are available at the Theatre's website at or by calling the McCallum Theatre Box Office at (760) 340-ARTS.

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