Where: Paramount Theatre 1330 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, N.J. 07712 (732) 897-8810. You can also purchase tickets through the Boys & Girls Club of Monmouth County at 732-530-0065myCentralJersey.com
When: Friday, June 18, 8 PM
When: Friday, June 18, 8 PM
By GRETCHEN C. VAN BENTHUYSEN • STAFF WRITER • June 14, 2010
Liza Minnelli is pretty sure she's been in Asbury Park before — she just doesn't know when or why.
"I've been touring my whole life, honey!" she said recently in a telephone interview to promote her June 18 benefit performance for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monmouth County at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.
That's because Minnelli and two younger siblings toured the world with their mother, Judy Garland, as Garland traveled from concert to concert.
And like her mother, Minnelli had success early in her career. At 19 she became the youngest woman ever to win a leading actress Tony Award for "Flora the Red Menace." She landed lead film roles in "The Sterile Cuckoo" at age 22 and "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" at 23. At 26, she took home the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1972 for "Cabaret," a film that shot her to international stardom.
Like her mother, she has married multiple times (four to date); is a singer who also acts; has seen career highs and lows; is known for erratic behavior and is an icon for the gay community.
Kander and Ebb and Liza with a 'z'
Minnelli met composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb during the songwriters' first collaboration — "Flora and the Red Menace." They also wrote "Cabaret" and almost all of Minnelli's trademark tunes, including her Emmy-winning TV special "Liza with a Z."
"I feel like Fred invented me," Minnelli said. "He said, 'OK, first thing that is going to happen is you are not singing any of your mother's songs. Everybody will expect it. You need special material.
"So, for my first concert in Washington D.C. they wrote 'Liza With a Z.' That really did give me my own identity," she said.
That identity has evolved into a larger-than-life personality that has generated tabloid headlines (especially during her marriage to concert promoter David Gest earlier this century). Yet, she is one of only about a dozen performers to have earned an Emmy, Grammy (the Legend Award), Oscar, Golden Globe (two) and Tony (four). She is one of the few entertainers able to maintain a career almost exclusively through live performance. (Although she does numerous guest appearences on TV and film, including one in the current "Sex and the City 2.")
She has about eight minutes to talk during a band rehearsal break as she prepares for the tour. Her distinctive voice rushes through the telephone line in a staccato, breathless fashion that washes over you like a huge wave breaking on the beach.
"What I'm doing now is introducing my new record, 'Confessions'," she said. "It's very good, I must say. It's different."
Tour suggested by a friend
After a series of health problems, including two hip replacements, Minnelli, 64, notes she won't be jumping around anymore.
"I'm going to just have to sing the songs," she said.
The idea for this tour was suggested by a friend.
"I like to have people come over Sunday nights for a musical evening at home, like Tony (Bennett), Barbra (Streisand), DeNiro (Robert), Pacino (Al), Mike Douglas," she said. "They knew they were safe, we were all friends, so everybody got up to sing, except Barbra. She was terrified she would forget the words.
"I'd sing the quiet songs. Finally someone said, 'you should do an album the way you sound at home.' And I did, and it's just wonderful to just sing the music."
The album of 14 American popular standards includes the title track, plus "You Fascinate Me So," "All the Way," "This Heart of Mine," "I Got Lost in His Arms" and "At Last." She said the songs are part of her being.
"I learned them as a child sitting under the piano at Ira Gershwin's house with Kay Thompson singing," she said. "It was like osmosis."
Thompson, Minnelli's godmother, was an American author, composer, musician, actress and singer best known as the creator of the Eloise childrens books about a precocious 6-year-old girl who lives on the top floor of the Plaza Hotel. It has been said Minnelli was the inspiration for the books.
During her 2008 tour, Minnelli devoted much of the performance to re-creating Thompson's act. Its success led to her return to Broadway and her last Tony in December 2008 with "Liza's at The Palace." At the time of the interview, the 2010 touring schedule was unclear.
"Honey, it's up in the air!"
What she did know is some of the shows, such as the one scheduled for the Paramount, will be small while others include a symphony orchestra. No matter the size of the band, Minnelli said she will follow the advice of her father, film director Vincente Minnelli.
"My father said to me that when you perform, look at the venue and make sure everybody can see you and how do you fix that, staging wise, if they can't (see you). Make sure the lighting plan is great. I'll be using Matt Berman, who is the best in the world and has been with me for years," she said. "Then work on the sound. I usually travel with 12 pieces and I have the symphony charts, but I've also got the four-piece band.
"It will be an adventure every performance," she said. "That's what's great about theater — no one show is ever the same — not if you stay in the moment."