Liza performing her firsr UK Tour in over 20 years!
By Helen Brown
Last Updated: 12:20AM BST 26/05/2008
An hour before Liza Minnelli gave her first London show in over 20 years, I heard that the American star had been held up at UK customs with a visa problem.
One look at the startlingly slim and vibrant singer, and you'd guess the hitch must have been with passport control: the 62-year-old Minnelli looked nothing like the bloated and jaded woman we've become accustomed to seeing in press photographs of the past decade.
In fact, the visa trouble was just dull old paperwork trouble, but Minnelli flagged up her recent revamp to an adoring London audience.
"Notice anything different about me?" she said, sucking in her cheeks as a cheeky hint. "I lost 44 pounds!"
This was only the first of many personal confidences in a triumphant night of great, old school song, dance and golden era Hollywood gossip that included tales of her "momma" Judy Garland and father, director Vincente Minnelli.
Minnelli gave fans (who had paid up to £98 for tickets) the big hits from Cabaret and Chicago that made her famous in the early Seventies. Each song came with a gag or an anecdote. Describing the moment in Chicago when she was playing a husband-killer, there was a wink of recognition.
She made wry reference to her own long-term problems with drugs and alcohol in the theme song from Cabaret, glancing about in theatrical guilt on a line about "pills and liquor".
The confidences are delivered in such a breathless rush it consistently comes as a shock when she belts out the next song from the depths of her lungs. The gutsy yowl isn't quite as strong as it once was. But it's still mighty moving, all the more so for the occasional glimpses of fragility.
The second half of the show was a tribute to Minnelli's godmother Kay Thompson and, of course, to her own "momma". Thompson was the strong and eccentric lady who swabbed Garland's tears with a powder puff when she first saw her daughter perform.
Having spent a lifetime bouncing between showbiz glitter and tabloid tragedy, Minnelli goes out on a high, belting out a massive New York, New York, the signature song that was written for her in 1977. It was up to nobody but Liza to make this show a success and she came through with stardust to spare.