Sunday, September 5, 2010
Concert preview: Legendary Liza thrilled to sing favorites
By Bill Lynch
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Even over the phone, Liza Minnelli is larger than life. Her voice doesn't just come through the earpiece; it erupts.
"I promise to speak slowly," she drawled, though it was one promise she didn't keep. Half a breath later she was laughing and bubbling over with things to say.
The 64-year-old Broadway legend is more than a little excited about her new album, "Confessions," due out this month, as well as her new stage show, which comes Sept. 12 to the Keith-Albee Theater in Huntington.
As she describes it, the show focuses on the songs she's best known for as well as some of her personal favorites and was inspired by weekends at Minnelli's home. Often the singer hosted dinner parties where she invited a few friends -- some of them famous in their own right. After a meal, some conversation and a few laughs, they gravitated toward the piano.
The rest would seem pretty natural.
"Getting this show together has been wonderful," she said. "To tell you the truth, I'm singing all of my favorite songs. I feel really lucky to have so many songs that were written for me."
Minnelli's stage show is a take on those late nights spent with friends around the piano, but to be shared with a crowd of a couple thousand. It's just Minnelli singing the tunes and Billy Stritch, her longtime accompanist and musical partner, hitting the ivories.
"He's just so brilliant," Minnelli said. "He doesn't just play my songs, he orchestrates them. We go very well together."
And as musical partners go, Minnelli could do worse. Stritch has earned his share of awards, too. Stritch and Nashville songwriter Sandy Knox won a Grammy for Reba McIntire's 1994 country hit "Does He Love You?"
Minnelli says she discovered Stritch 17 years ago when she was doing her 12 girls show at Radio City Music Hall. They've worked together ever since.
The current show is more intimate and focuses on the music, which spares Minnelli from a lot of kicking and dancing. Minnelli has racked up a number of health problems over the years and had another knee replacement surgery in January.
But age and injury have scarcely ever slowed her down for very long. She's perhaps endured worse. Her personal life has frequently been tabloid fodder, but she's weathered multiple marriages and bouts with addiction and had a career on the stage and screen that's enviable by nearly every standard it can be measured.
She's one of the few performers to have earned an Oscar, an Emmy, several Tony Awards, plus two Golden Globes and a Grammy. Audiences in New York have never tired of her. The reviews are still mostly rave, and she's still sought after for appearances in television and in film.
There's a lot of history, but 60 years into her career, Minnelli doesn't look back too much -- at least not to the distant part of her life in entertainment. She says she's been luckier than most.
"There are plenty of stars who had kids and none of them made it."
Comparisons to her iconic mother, Judy Garland, or even to herself in a younger day are mostly wasted on her.
"They don't bother me," she said. "You don't have to deal with it, not when you're a fact, not fiction."
Whatever shadow those two figures cast don't bother her.
And while Minnelli's career might have been at its height decades ago, she's pleased at some of her later projects, including odder ones like a guest appearance on My Chemical Romance's "Black Parade" album and her 1989 collaboration with British dance pop band The Pet Shop Boys.
Minnelli tends to look toward the future, and right now that's her stage show and the new album, which includes songs like "This Heart Of Mine" (a song her mother recorded), "Close Your Eyes" and Peggy Lee's "He's A Tramp."
"You know," she said. "The first time I heard that one was in the Disney movie" ("Lady and the Tramp").
She laughs. Originally, she remembers, the song was sung by a dog.
Want to go?
WHAT: Liza Minnelli
WHERE: Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, Huntington
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sept. 12
TICKETS: $45, $65 and $85.25.
INFO: Call the Marshall Artists Series box office at 304-696-6656 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.