There’s a breathless little catch when she speaks, familiar to anyone who’s heard Liza Minnelli perform on stage or in the movies.
Her phrasing ranges from staccato to serene, depending on the subject at hand.
Then there’s that laugh — a giggle, a blurt, a chuckle, a cackle — erupting into the conversation when you least expect it.
"Has my voice changed over the years? Gosh, I don’t know," Minnelli says. "All I can tell you is that my doctor is amazed. He said, ‘How do you do it?’"
At age 64, this singer and actress could spend her time relaxing by the pool at Chateau Marmont, sipping tea at the Plaza or basking in the adoration of her fans.
Minnelli, after all, is a Broadway icon and a member of Hollywood royalty. She’s a household name and a much-decorated one — with Oscar, Grammy, Tony and Emmy awards in her trophy case.
But Minnelli’s back on tour this fall, performing concert dates with a sextet that includes her longtime pianist, Billy Stritch.
She’ll make a rare appearance in Birmingham on Saturday at the Alys Stephens Center, just three days before the release of her new album, "Confessions."
How long has it been since Minnelli graced us with her presence?
"I’ve been everywhere, and I really can’t say," she says. "But I’m really looking forward to it. It’s beautiful there."
Minnelli’s 7 p.m. show is likely to include selections from "Confessions," along with some of her signature tunes. (These range from "Cabaret" to "New York, New York.")
Complications from a knee-replacement surgery forced her to cancel a July show with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, but Minnelli says she’s recovered and feeling fit.
Who: Liza Minnelli.
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 25.
Where: Jemison Concert Hall, Alys Stephens Center, 1200 10th Ave. South, Birmingham, Alabama.
Tickets: $85-$135; $1,000 for premium seats, a cocktail reception and dinner with the star after the show.
Info: 205-975-2787or Stephens Center website.
"I take dance class every morning and it’s so much better than before," she says. "I just had a bad knee. I think so many people get them at my age. From the waist down, I’m the Tin Man’s kid."
Not so creaky, though, as evidenced by her glam cameo in this summer’s "Sex and the City 2." Wearing a glittering shirt and black boots, Minnelli offered a mini-cover of "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," complete with flashy dance moves.
"I love all the girls," she says, "and the choreography is so brilliant."
Like her new album, Minnelli’s show here will lean to jazz classics and composers such as Irving Berlin and Cy Coleman. Still, the numbers she pulls from "Confessions" might not be the chestnuts listeners expect.
Minnelli put her stamp on famous numbers such as "All The Way" and "At Last," but also chose less standard fare, including "I Got Lost in His Arms" and "You Fascinate Me So."
"People would come over to my house and we’d be singing in the back room, every night, where the piano is," Minnelli says. "These are the kinds of songs we would do."
She and Stritch took a stripped-down approach during recording sessions for "Confessions," emphasizing her throaty vocals and subtle piano accompaniment.
"What’s the point of singing if you hide your voice?" Minnelli says. "It felt very natural to sing with Billy. He’s a friend and he thinks musically. From the get-go, Billy was so incredibly imaginative. I’d describe an emotion to him, and he’d play it."
Minnelli’s always been a theatrical soul, so it’s no surprise when she mentions that acting and singing are intimately linked for her.
"My hero, Charles Aznavour, just killed me with the way he sang songs," Minnelli says. "It was not only a song, but an acting experience. You believed every word."