Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Liza Minnelli touches her audience's soul and bares her own

Liza Minnelli performs at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. Photo: Marissa Calligeros
MARISSA CALLIGEROS November 1, 2009 - 9:29AM

I confess: I am a member of Gen-Y. I have never seen Cabaret, nor Chicago for that matter.
Forgive me, but I have seen no appeal in garish musical numbers performed by vainglorious stage tragics. Of the godmother of "diva", Liza Minnelli, I was at the very least, skeptical.
I am now converted, if only for the performance of a songstress whose mastery of music and lyrics made a crowded Brisbane Entertainment Centre intimate, touching every soul, while unexpectedly baring her own.
Minnelli burst onto the stage on Friday night in a razzle-dazzle glory of sequins, to the rature of over-60s women and hyperventilating gay men.
There were her signature gestures: an arm flinging upwards and a flutter of fingers inviting her audience to "come to the cabaret".
And we obliged as Ms Minnelli, albiet a "little older, but not crazy" as she said, stood in memory of a more glamorous theatrical past.
In a modern world of omnivorous video music clips, Ms Minnelli stood front and centre on a minimal stage, with her 12-piece orchestra, led by long-time collaborator William "Billy" Streich, just visible in the background.
From the moment the sweet tones of Teach Me Tonight percolated through the theatre, Minnelli became the puppeteer, tugging on the heartstrings of the crowd which sat spellbound.
Now I understand everything a diva is, and should be.
Ms Minnelli showed signs of her 62 years, as phrases were at times lost in her shortness of breath, particularly when she launched with unexpected gusto into If You Hadn't But You Did.
However, those flaws were few and far between.
She sang what seemed to be an ode to her former lovers - many they be - What Makes A Man A Man, and the show began to soar as Minnelli's force became a triumph of spirit over age as she transformed into Chicago's Roxie Hart for Own Best Friend.
There was a dithering aspect to Ms Minnelli's stage presence as she spoke to the audience between numbers, but that disappeared once she emersed herself in the familiar cocoon of song.
"All my family has joined the choir," she said.
"So you're my family now."
There is nothing overbearing about Minnelli's persona. As the New York Times observed, "In fact, she wore her aching vulnerability on her sequined sleeve".
She exacted every drop of emotion from He's Funny That Way, before the crowd stood in rapturous applause. In all, Ms Minnelli received six standing ovations.
It was her bearing of her fragile journey through stardom and love, interspersed with humorous jabs at her former husbands, that had all eyes glued to the stage and not the big screens.
Then came New York New York the way it was always meant to be.
She re-emerged for the encore wearing a black t-shirt and pants. She brushed her hair, damp from sweat, aside and sang to her long lost best friend.
"This is for you Peter."
The tears welled in her eyes as she took her final bow, while I felt a stray tear fall down my own face.

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