Sunday, October 18, 2009
Triumphant Liza soaks up the love
CABARET: Matthew Westwood October 19, 2009
Article from: The Australian
Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, October 17. Riverside Theatre, Perth, Wednesday; Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Friday; Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, October 25; Brisbane Entertainment Centre, October 30; Sydney Entertainment Centre, November 2.
THERE was a lot of love in the room on Saturday night, the second of Liza Minnelli's concerts at the Sydney Opera House. It was Minnelli's return to Australia after a gap of 20 years -- her last concerts were billed as The Ultimate Event with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr -- and her fans let forth something like two decades' worth of adulation when their idol stepped on to thestage.
"I love you, Liza," a lone voice would cry from the auditorium.
"Oh, I love you too," Minnelli would reply, emphasising every word.
The pitch of mutual admiration continued through the evening, but the love was well earned. Minnelli put everything into opening numbers Teach Me Tonight, If You Hadn't, But You Did and My Own Best Friend.
God knows where Minnelli -- the survivor of four marriages, encephalitis, hip and knee replacements and battles with addiction -- gets her energy from.
And one may have a certain admiration for the singer-as-survivor, emerging triumphant and sequined from private and public travails.
In truth, though, the noise of victory becomes a little wearying. Some songs were belted into shape, the diction unclear and the vibrato wide enough to walk through.
The stage act, too, verges on self-parody, with all that arm-flinging and hands raised in salute. This reached an apogee in the show's climax, the Theme from New York, New York.
Part of the show (with a terrific 12-piece band led by drummer Michael Berkowitz and Billy Stritch at the piano) is based on Minnelli's Tony Award-winning season Liza's at the Palace, at the Palace Theatre in New York. But much of the evening was given over to songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb that were written for Minnelli, or which she made famous: Cabaret, Liza with a Z, and anthems But the World Goes Round and the New York, New York theme.
One longed for quieter numbers that would display another side of Minnelli's gifts. This came in the Charles Aznavour song What Makes a Man a Man and Cole Porter's Every Time We Say Goodbye, but even this tender ballad had to be brought to a show-stopping conclusion.
The show ended in un-diva-like fashion, with Minnelli in a baggy T-shirt and wiping her face with a towel, singing Peter Allen's All the Lives of Me. Even stripped of make-up and false eyelashes, she revealed herself as the supreme entertainer she is.