Saturday, September 11, 2010
Concert review: Liza Minnelli proves she's still got it...
Liza Minnelli performs Friday at the Roanoke Civic Center Coliseum. She revisited her Broadway past and did a few tunes from her upcoming album, "Confessions."
By Tad Dickens
Most folks at 64 are settling into a life that's a little easier. Not Liza Minnelli.
Hip and knee replacements, not to mention a legendary showbiz life of some wildness, haven't slowed her down much.
From the moment Minnelli sashayed onstage at the Roanoke Civic Center Coliseum on Friday night, she owned the place.
Her dancing isn't what it once was, and she sang a few numbers from a director's chair onstage, but she spun, strutted and swayed anyway. Her voice cracked in a couple of places, but elsewhere in the one-hour and 15-minute show, it was articulate and resonant, nailing the high notes with the trademark, slow-cycling tremolo.
A crowd of 2,096 in the 5,000-capacity room got a nostalgia-laden, dinner theater-style Broadway revue, with a few jazzy tunes from Minnelli's upcoming album, "Confessions," in the mix. About 700 people sat at tables on the floor, 500 of them enjoying the show after big plates of supper.
Minnelli, with her own six-piece band and an ultimately underutilized Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, was not looking to reinvent herself. Opening with a rousing "Alexander's Ragtime Band," she worked much of the stage, her sequined blouse reflecting the stage lights.
She went slow and slinky on "Teach Me Tonight," then showed her still-solid technique on George Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here To Stay."
Minnelli revisited her Broadway past, doing "My Own Best Friend," from "Chicago." She told the audience that she took over the Roxie Hart role years ago after star Gwen Verdon fell ill.
A star didn't take over for a star -- the job typically goes to the understudy -- but Minnelli talked director/choreographer Bob Fosse into it.
She had a way of breaking ground back then. But on Friday, it was about holding the ground she had. She closed with "New York, New York" -- milking it for all it was worth -- and an intimate take on "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye." The crowd responded with a standing ovation.
The symphony opened with a professional and tight 25-minute set of Broadway standards, including a medley from "The Sound of Music."