Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Friday, March 28, 2008

Liza Minnelli looks back...New show highlights career, honors influences

By DREW STERWALD • • March 28, 2008

But Liza Minnelli? She has had a third act, fourth act and fifth act.
She won a Tony Award in each decade from the 1960s to the 1990s. She won an Oscar, an Emmy and a Golden Globe in the 1970s. She won the 1989 Grammy Legend Award.
Along the way, the star has survived viral encephalitis, hip and knee replacements, obesity, addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs, nasty divorces and tabloid headlines.
Nevertheless, performing the show she'll do tonight in Fort Myers still scares her a little. The song-and-dance production features highlights of her career as well as a tribute to her godmother, the singer and musical arranger Kay Thompson. Minnelli tells stories, sings and dances.
"I've never talked about myself on stage before," she says. "It's like you're opening yourself up, and it's the most terrible thing if somebody doesn't like it and you're talking about your life. It's personal."
It's personal, but it's also public.
Minnelli has lived all of her 62 years in the spotlight, first as the daughter of Hollywood legend Judy Garland and film director Vincent Minnelli and then as a stage and screen star in her own right.

But she's just beginning to open up, Minnelli said in a phone interview from New York. Her conversation bubbled with laughter, well-timed punch lines and the occasional dash of profanity.
"For chrissakes, I made it this far," she said. "I can say anything I want."
In other words, she's exactly how you expect "Liza with a Z" to be.
This is the woman whose big break came 30-plus years ago playing a louche and loose American singer in a 1930s girlie club in "Cabaret." Her first film appearance came at age 3 beside her mother in the 1949 musical "In the Good Old Summertime."
After nearly 60 years in show business, she's still working. Minnelli appeared in 10 episodes of the snarky sitcom "Arrested Development" from 2003 to 2005. She has appeared on "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" and even sang on a 2006 album by My Chemical Romance.
With her current show, Minnelli wants to "look at all the wonderful things that happened to me, look who influenced me," she said.
The evening begins with her signature songs, such as "New York, New York" and "Maybe This Time" from "Cabaret."
The second part of the show focuses on her late godmother with songs such as "The Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe" from Garland's 1946 film "The Harvey Girls." A singer and actress, Thompson was a vocal coach to Garland, Lena Horne and other stars. As music director at MGM studios, she also wrote arrangements for iconic musicals like "Funny Face," "Good News" and "Till the Clouds Roll By."
"There was nobody like Kay," Minnelli said. "These numbers just even vocally were so far ahead of their time. I just want to be able to do it half as good as she did."
Minnelli has almost finished recording the material and hopes to turn it into a Broadway or off-Broadway show and a TV special like her classic "Liza with a Z."
For now, she performs it around the country in short stints. Then she rests before hitting the road again.
"I feel insanely good," she said. "I've lost a lot of weight because I'm dancing again. Never in my life have I danced this much."
The comeback queen almost didn't get her latest act in life. Both hips have been replaced and a leg wired. After a 2000 battle with viral encephalitis, she was told she might spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
"From the waist down, I'm the Tin Man," she cracked. "They said I would never walk and talk again. I wanted to say, 'Bullshit!' "
Once again, Minnelli's determination brought her back again. After all the ups and downs, what keeps this triple threat going?
"It's fun," she said. "I'm sorry it's so simple, but it is. I don't know how to do anything else."
Minnelli said she stopped taking money from her parents when she was 15. Her first job was moving scenery at a theater in Hyannis, Mass., called Melody Tent.
Does she really still have to work after all these years?
"Are you kidding?" she said. "I think everybody thinks we grew up rich."
No silver spoons in the Minnelli household?
"We grew up with a silver spoon, but it was Hollywood - it was fake," she said.
When Minnelli was a kid, she wanted to be an ice skater. Watching her parents make movies was the most boring thing in the world, she said.
Seeing "Bye, Bye, Birdie," which opened in New York in 1960, changed her mind.
"I thought, 'That's what I want to do - be on Broadway,' " she recalled.
By the time she was 19, she had won a 1965 Tony award for best actress in a musical for "Flora the Red Menace." At the time, she was the youngest person ever to win a Tony.
A year later, the show that would give Minnelli the role of a lifetime opened on Broadway. Although she did not originate the role of Sally Bowles in that 1966 production, the 1972 movie version of "Cabaret" gave her a couple of signature songs and even her iconic look: the lush lashes framing her big eyes, the bright red lipstick, the shaggy black bob under a bowler.
Looking back, the pan-sexually charged movie seems pretty tame compared with the darker 1998 Broadway revival, Minnelli said.
But she's proud of it.
"It's a good movie - it was kind of a first," she said. "(Director) Bob Fosse took a lot of chances. He made a very mysterious, dark, wonderfully funny and sexy movie."

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