Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Phil Review: Liza Minnelli can still knock 'em dead

By CHRIS SILK (Contact)Originally published 12:12 p.m., Wednesday, February 25, 2009Updated 1:37 p.m., Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Liza Minnelli might be gasping for every breath and fighting for every single note on stage, but she still has it. Boy, does she still have it! The 62-year-old huffed, puffed and blew the roof off the Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Tuesday night with a blisteringly theatrical performance that saw the crowd rise to its feet a half-dozen times throughout the night.
Minnelli, looking especially trim in a pair of sequined outfits (a creamy brown for the first act, black for the second) is touring in support of her new album, “Liza’s at the Palace,” released Feb. 3. The Naples stop precedes a two-week, seven-show swing through South America and a month in Europe later this summer.
The two-hour show — with a 20-minute intermission — is a pared-down version of Minnelli’s triumphant winter comeback run at New York’s Palace Theater, which she references frequently during the evening. Her Big Apple production included a quartet of black-tied chorus boys — but Minnelli is glamorously frenetic enough for five, six, seven or eight on the Phil stage, even as she continually proclaims her love for Naples.
Much of the complicated choreography that defined her early career is gone, the victim of two hip replacements, yet the veteran still has full command of her ability to twinkle her fingers, swing her arms and traipse around the stage with the best of them. Even though Minnelli comes up breathless at times and tries too often to make light of the fact that she’s visibly winded, the diva in her refuses to leave the crowd unsatisfied.
She mops her face, drinks from a mug of water, leans on the piano or heads for a chair in the middle of the first act and launches back into numbers drawn from her huge repertoire. Even sitting demurely in a chair, belting out tunes, she’s more of a presence than most singers are standing up.
Minnelli, backed by a 12-piece band, opens with the slamming, funky “Blues in the Night,” dancing around the stage like a gazelle, bopping to the riffs, the bangs and the beat of the music. She sparkles, she shines, she glimmers, she trills (even if the vibrato is a bit shaky after all these years) and she has the audience eating out of the palm of her hand before the end of the first number.
The plaintive Charles Aznavour number “What Makes a Man a Man” is delivered with soulful power and enough honest emotion to make me wish for a tiny cabaret with a piano and a trumpet in one corner, a few crowded tables filled with lonely broken souls nursing drinks and Liza tucked up on a small stage pushing that voice out, inside and through the smoky velvet haze that wraps beautiful music around you like a glove and makes the gorgeously crafted notes tangible, touchable and something out of a dream.
Minnelli’s vaudeville-inspired days get a nod with “My Own Best Friend” from the stage version of “Chicago;” “Cabaret,” the energetic tune that helped win her an Oscar, closes Act One. Although she’s clearly working for every breath in every song, Minnelli — and her band — delivers. The quick second act airs out more John Kander and Fred Ebb tunes, including the breathless “Liza with Z” number and “And the World Goes ‘Round,” an anthem to survival.
The highlights come near the end, though, with a roaring rendition of the Al Jolson classic “Mammy” that brings the crowd to its feet even as it reduces Minnelli to a near puddle. Her signature song, the theme from “New York, New York,” leaves the crowd roaring even as the predictable Philharmonic “rush for the doors” begins. Minnelli encores alone on stage with longtime pianist Billy Stritch, singing the classic “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.”
What else is there to say? The woman can still sing. The band was perfect and the crowd left wonderfully satisfied. Here’s hoping we all make it to our sixth decade with that kind of will, spirit and talent!
I was hoping for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but didn’t get it. What did you miss? E-mail me at

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