Liza Minnelli is playing Chicago’s “palace” on Sunday, and if you don’t have a ticket, the “Liza’s at the Palace” DVD is the next best thing.
Recorded at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last year (in a special midnight show peppered with celebs and Liza pals), the two-hour concert recreates her 2009 Tony Award-winning show. While we’re all familiar with the self-destructive, downward spiral of Minnelli’s life (her famous marriages and divorces, weight issues, plastic surgeries and such), we might have forgotten just how talented an entertainer she can be. And just how much she’s bounced back from all the bad times. (She has a priceless cameo in the movie “Sex and the City 2.”)
Though nowhere near the level of excitement and quality of her heyday, Minnelli still manages to wow us. Backed by her pianist and arranger, Billy Stritch, a small orchestra and four backup dancer-singers, this concert is a joy. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say Minnelli is the last of her kind — a lineage that proudly includes Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and, of course, her legendary mom, Judy Garland. And much like Garland, who battled her inner demons and whose career had its incredible highs and miserable lows, Minnelli proves she can still turn it on when the stage lights come up and the orchestra starts playing.
The concert is an homage to show business in the classic sense. Minnelli pays tribute to Garland’s 1951 appearance at the Palace Theatre, as well as to her godmother, actress-singer Kay Thompson, who worked as a lyricist, arranger and vocal coach at MGM Studios in the 1940s and ’50s, and whose nightclub act included a young singing group called the Williams Brothers — Andy Williams included.
At 65, Minnelli is obviously slowing down, but there is enough sparkle in her performance to amaze even her biggest critics. Iconic songs like “Cabaret,” “Maybe This Time,” “Teach Me Tonight” and “And the World Goes Round” are putty in her hands. “Basin Street Blues” and “Jubilee Time” harken back to a different show-biz age, and she delivers them with gusto. Watching her dance, albeit, dance as well as she can, in her signature sequined blouse-dress and over-the-knee boots — it’s vintage Liza with a “Z.” Her vocals may not be as commanding as they once were, but they are vibrant and heartfelt. Her anecdotes are endearing, and moments of self-deprecation are humorous.
By the time she belts out “New York, New York” and delivers the encore featuring “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” you know you’ve witnessed something very special.
•“Liza Minnelli and Friends,” 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Tickets, $52-$122. Call (800) 745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.