By Richard Duckett TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFFrduckett@telegram.com
Liza Minnelli's ` Liza's at the Palace ...!' performance will get its first complete workout in Woonsocket before heading to Broadway.
When: 8 p.m. on Nov. 19, 20, 22 and 23.Where: The Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Centre, 28 Monument Square, Woonsocket, R.I.How much: $55-$85. Call (401) 762-4545 or go to http://www.stadiumtheatre.com/
It’s more than another opening of another show. Liza Minnelli is coming back to Broadway. The legendary singer and actress’ new show “Liza’s at the Palace …!” opens Dec. 3 at Broadway’s Palace Theatre (Broadway and 47th Street). As might be expected from her engagingly bubbly public persona, Minnelli sounded excited and enthused. In “Liza’s at the Palace…!” she will pay tribute to her beloved godmother, the late Kay Thompson, a singer, writer and Renaissance woman. Minnelli will talk about their relationship. “I’ve never talked about myself on stage, ever. It’s even a different kind of nervous. And I feel a little sigh the minute I think about Kay,” she said.
But before she also sings “New York! New York!” in New York again (as she surely will in the performance), there is another destination and show opening. She is coming near here for a sort of “out of town” tryout of “Liza’s at the Palace …!” for four performance beginning Nov. 19 at the Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Centre in Woonsocket, R.I. Actually she was being interviewed 12 days ago by telephone from Italy, where she was performing her show on a short tour. She also took in some of the sights of Rome, Thompson’s home for seven years. “It’s beautiful here. It’s so beautiful here, I can’t tell you,” she said as the clock was starting to tick into the evening in Italy. Minnelli has been developing her new show and touring with it off and on for the past two years. But it is in Woonsocket where the scenery for the Broadway appearance will be brought in for the first time and final touches made to both the decor and the score. Audiences in Woonsocket are in for some excitement, Minnelli said. “We are out of town, which is the best part. ... We will finalize everything we’ve been working on for two years.” The first act consists of “songs that were written for me and associated with me,” she said. These will include “Cabaret” and “Maybe This Time” — written for her by the legendary Broadway songwriting partnership of John Kander and Fred Ebb. They will be performed with a 12-man orchestra. “The second act is really all my godmother.” Thompson (1908-98) was regarded as the consummate cabaret performer (“I saw her nightclub act when I was 2,” Minnelli said), wrote the “Eloise” series of children’s books, and was a vocal arranger, music director and vocal coach who worked with such stars as Judy Garland (Minnelli’s mother), Frank Sinatra and Lena Horne. With four singer/dancers, Minnelli will perform musical hits (with the original vocal arrangements) from Thompson’s act such as “I Love a Violin,” “Clap Yo’ Hands,” “Jubilee Time” and “Hello Hello” — set to new staging and choreography. The concert performance is scripted by Minnelli and Tony Award-winner David Zippel, and will be full of personal stories, anecdotes and reminiscences embraced in a theatrical setting. “She did everything. She taught everyone at MGM,” Minnelli said of Thompson. How close were they? “Very, very close. I consider her the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. She was zany, sophisticated, funny and all that good stuff.” And probably resilient as well, something she may well have imparted to Minnelli. The entertainer has had well-documented health and personal problems over the years, but then comes a show like “Liza’s Back” in 2002. In 2004 and ‘05 there were appearances on the TV sitcom “Arrested Development,” and guest vocals on My Chemical Romance’s 2006 concept album “The Black Parade.” Now there’s “Liza’s at the Palace…!” where she has had a hand in scripting and putting her 62-year-old body very much through its paces. Minnelli said she’s always been disciplined when it comes to performing, as well as perfectionistic. The daughter of Garland and movie director Vincente Minnelli, she made her movie debut as a baby in the 1949 film “In the Good Old Summertime.” Over the years there would be Tony Awards, an Academy Award (for her best-known film and role as Sally Bowles in the 1972 classic “Cabaret”) an Emmy for “Liza with a ‘Z’ ” and a Grammy Legend Award. Growing up on movie sets around her parents, however, “I wanted to be an ice skater. I would have been a good one,” Minnelli said. She would have been good because of the discipline she would have imparted, she said. “I didn’t want to do any of this until I saw ‘Bye-Bye Birdie.’ Then I thought, ‘Oh this is fun.’ ” Asked what her favorite role is, she replied, “My favorite role is what I’m doing at the time … “I love rehearsing and getting it right. I’m relentless in the way I work. I’ll work at anything till it’s right.” But she hasn’t lost her sense of fun, either. The next night in Rome after the interview, Minnelli said “we’re gonna kick up our heels” visiting where Thompson used to live. “She loved this city,” Minnelli said.