Liza Stepping Out!

Liza Stepping Out!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Liza Minnelli loves Chicago (and we love her)

Marc Harshbarger on 06.07.10 at 2:41 PM |

Actually Liza's exact words were "I'm so thrilled to be in Chicago", where her father, director Vincent Minnelli, got his first job in the theater as a costume and set designer at the Chicago Theatre. And over 80 years later, his daughter was in the exact same place last night, doing what she does best - entertaining people.

Having never seen Liza in concert before, I was excited to go - and the evening turned into one that I will never forget. To give you an idea of how the night went, here's a chronological review of her show - and what happened afterwards:

"Oh My God": These were her first words as she walked out on stage, looking like a million bucks in a black sequin off-the-shoulder top with dark slacks. Of course, we all immediately gave her a standing ovation, and she seemed thoroughly delighted and touched to receive this instant adoration.

"The Nearness of You": Her first song was this 1938 Hoagy Carmichael tune, which she sang beautifully - and used to great comic effect as she brought out a pair of binoculars to see everyone in the huge theater. I've always loved her quirky sense of humor.

"Teach Me Tonight":
She then performed a rousing rendition of this 1953 Sammy Cahn song, which was terrific.

"On Such a Night as This":
I believe Michael Feinstein originally recorded this song, which mentions Liza's mother, Judy Garland. Of course, everyone had to acknowledge with applause this brief reference to the beloved legend. Liza also sat in a director's chair for this song and many others as she just had knee replacement surgery in January. Since it took my own mother a full year to completely recover from her knee operation, it's pretty amazing that Liza is out performing after only five months.

"He's Funny That Way": After performing this tune, Liza said she was hot, so I assumed she was going offstage to change into a new outfit. This gave the great Grammy-winning composer Billy Stritch, who accompanied her on piano, to sing a wonderful solo of "No Moon at All". The other five members of the band were equally as good.

"I Can't Give You Anything but Love": Liza returned in the exact same outfit to confess that she lied about being hot in order to give her friend, Billy, a chance to shine. They then proceeded to sing a duet of this 1928 Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields standard.

"You've Let Yourself Go": Broadway composer Fred Ebb translated this amusing song by French singer/songwriter Charles Aznavour many years ago for Liza.

"Cabaret": I got goosebumps listening to Liza sing this Act 1 closer - and I imagine this will be the closest I ever get to experiencing her mother's infamous Carnegie Hall concert. Last night's audience was very vocal in their love for Ms. Minnelli - even though she couldn't always understand what they were saying.
"Pain": Liza then sang this fitting Kander & Ebb song after discussing her recent knee replacement surgery. She also mentioned that she originally wanted to be an ice skater until her parents took her to see Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway.

"Confession": Liza's brand new album, Confessions, will be released on September 21, which she and Billy Stritch recorded in her bedroom before and after her knee surgery. These are songs that she and her guests would sing around the piano at one of her intimate parties. She admitted that she couldn't be running around the stage forever, so these tunes worked perfectly for her to just sit still and sing. Besides "Confession", she also sang "You Fascinate Me So", "I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You", "Moments Like This", "If I Had You", "This Heart of Mine" and "He's a Tramp".

"Maybe This Time" and "New York, New York": She saved the best for last as the audience went wild over with loud applause and standing ovations while she was singing these signature songs.
The lady sang her heart out for two hours with one intermission, and then afterwards - as my partner and I were talking to a few people involved with the show - she suddenly appeared in the theater to greet everyone. Some folks briefly chatted with Liza - including one woman who wanted her to sign the box of her Liza Cabaret doll - before she announced that she would have her photo taken with whoever wanted one. So that's how Michael and I ended up getting to meet Liza Minnelli. I believe I said to her, "Hi, I'm Marc" and "It was a great show", but while I was standing next to her, all I could think was "I'm having my picture taken with Liza Minnelli!!!"

And then she departed. As we were leaving the theater, we heard an uproar of cheers from the large crowd of people gathered by the stage door - and folks on nearby State Street went running down the alley to catch a glimpse of the fabulous Liza Minnelli.

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