Tuesday, September 7, 2010
For the love of Liza Minnelli
Liza Minnelli classifies herself as "kind of a modern vaudevillian."
And in the old vaudeville shows or practically any other kind of stage, the old nugget "the show must go on" holds true.
So Minnelli, at 64 and with surgically replaced hips and one replaced knee, is still hitting the road, still singing and dancing for people. What motivates her?
"I like it," she said, with a hearty cackle. "I don't think I'd go through all this if I didn't like it, but I really enjoy it."
And as for those surgical replacements? Minnelli, whose national tour lands at Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre on Friday for a performance with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, said she has recovered.
"It's wonderful they can do [effective joint replacements] now," she said in an Aug. 18 phone interview. "I'm jumping around like crazy."
Minnelli, a multitalented performer who has won an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony and an Oscar, will bring songs from her recently recorded CD, "Confessions," scheduled for release Sept. 28. She said she'll mix in tunes from that record with fan favorites that she still loves to perform.
"I try to make it a mixture of the two," she said. "And I'm so thrilled about the songs that have been written for me, like 'New York New York" and 'Liza with a Z,' and I wanted to put in something new. So this [tour] seemed the perfect opportunity to do that."
Minnelli's upcoming CD had its roots in weekly get-togethers at her place in New York. Friends, including the likes of Tony Bennett and Minnelli's pianist, Billy Stritch, would gravitate to her piano and start singing and playing, she said.
"It was just a wonderful evening and people could relax," she said. "They knew that they weren't onstage, so they could really get into the music.
"And finally somebody said, 'Why don't you make an album like this?' I said 'No. That's a private part of me! [laughs]' "
But she relented.
"I think in that atmosphere, just being relaxed and singing for the people around you, it's the difference between singing to and singing with. And I just loved those evenings so much.
"Billy [Stritch] was always there and just great. He got really excited about it, so I thought, well, I trust his taste, but I don't know if this is going to do anything. And then everyone at Decca [her record label] liked it."
Stritch, who with Minnelli is at the center of this record of smart, tasteful and engaging small band and vocal/piano cuts, will be with her in Roanoke.
The record includes lots of show tunes, movie soundtrack numbers and old-school pop numbers.
Minnelli covers songs previously performed by singers including Peggy Lee ("You Fascinate Me So," "He's a Tramp"), Frank Sinatra ("All The Way," "I Hadn't Anyone Till You"), Billie Holliday ("I Must Have That Man"), Johnny Mathis ("Moments Like This") and Minnelli's mother, Judy Garland ("If I Had You," "This Heart of Mine"). Songs in the collection were written by such past masters as Irving Berlin, Burton Lane/Frank Loesser and Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh.
Screens big and small
Minnelli, whose acting career began in earnest in the mid-1960s, still gets plenty of screen work.
In the past decade, she did 10 episodes of the bigger-than-cult classic TV show "Arrested Development" and is signed for the upcoming movie version. She did two episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." She performed and played herself in the "Sex in the City 2" movie and played a sex counselor in the indie flick "The Oh in Ohio."
To her, singing and acting have something big in common -- character development.
"To me they're the same thing, because each song is a different story coming from a different person," she said. "So I might background that song. ... I'll find the story line, and that way I can stick to character."
Minnelli was born into the entertainment business. Garland, her mother, remains to many an iconic singer/actor ("The Wizard of Oz," "A Star is Born" among many other titles). Her father, Vincente Minnelli, directed movies and theater. Liza Minnelli's half-sister, Lorna Luft, also has had a lengthy performance career.
Though Garland was a superstar who lived an oft-chronicled life of turbulence, Minnelli said she remembers only "what a good mother she was.
"That's really all I can remember, because the other side of it, I didn't get to see when I was little," she said. "Everybody's mother and father in Hollywood did the same thing. It was like being in a coal mining town. Everybody goes to the mines. Here, everybody just went to MGM."
Liza also did an telephone interview with Roanoke's WDBJ-TV (CBS). Please click on the below link to view.