Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Sunday, May 4, 2008

LIZA ~ TV review: Born too late… yet ahead of her time

Published Date: 05 May 2008
By Paul Whitelaw
The South Bank Show, STV, Sunday
Love Soup, BBC1, Saturday'ITHINK to complain would be to spit in God's eye at this point," declared Liza Minnelli towards the end of her profile on The South Bank Show. It's the sort of peppery quote which could only come from the lips of a seasoned showbiz survivor.

Minnelli often comes across as gushing and unconvincing in interviews, but here, in the gently prodding hands of Melvyn Bragg, she was more subdued, often to the extent of giving short, to-the-point, and entirely unrevealing answers. She is, after all, a studied pro, so it was always unlikely that Bragg would succeed in making her open up more than she wanted to. Which is a shame, as she's a fascinating character. Her one-time collaborator Neil Tennant correctly observed that, even though Minnelli comes from a younger generation, she still seems like the last living bastion of old Hollywood. Even if she'd only ever played Sally Bowles in Cabaret, that would still be enough to cement her iconic status. Speaking of her in that role, Tennant noted that, with her artfully painted make-up and stylised hairdo, "physically, she is an icon".Pop professor Paul Gambaccini argued that Minnelli was born too late, coming of age in an era when Broadway musicals were out of favour. Her remarkable voice, in his words, is "an instrument that comes with its own amps attached". But it's not just lung power: one of the few occasions during the interview when Minnelli became truly engaged was when she gave Bragg some insight into her distinctive phrasing and intonation techniques.Minnelli's oft overlooked influence on pop princes Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson (whose dancing style seems to owe a lot to hers) was also put forth, which is a valid observation I hadn't considered before. Even Siouxsie Sioux chipped in to admit that her distinctive Goth Valkyrie look was influenced by Minnelli.The Grand Dame herself declared that, in the end, all that mattered was her musical legacy, of which she was justly proud. Is there anyone on earth who doesn't enjoy bellowing songs from Cabaret at the top of their lungs after a few cold drinks? I thought not.I'm of the opinion that the quality of any film, TV show, or roving news report can be boosted immeasurably by the inclusion of Mark Heap. But watching him in Love Soup I can't help wondering whether he worries about being typecast as a twitchy neurotic. Heap does "nervy awkwardness" better than any other comic actor around – like John Le Mesurier before him, he can get laughs merely from a pained look – but you would imagine that he yearns to play something else. He'd make a great Macbeth.As for Love Soup itself, it's likeable enough in its own modest way, although the laugh quotient is unusually low for a David Renwick sitcom. I appreciate that Renwick is attempting to present something a little more low-key than the likes of One Foot In The Grave (which mixed pathos and farce with devastating ease), but Love Soup could still do with a few more actual jokes.The latest episode was preoccupied with philosophical musings about the nature of fate and belief, but neither was treated with much depth. Plus the joke about Sheridan Smith being frustrated by the centre-court grunts emitted by her tennis player boyfriend during sex, suggested that Renwick has been looking to his Seinfeld box-sets for inspiration. If it weren't for the mere presence of Heap, I wouldn't have smiled once.

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