Thursday, September 9, 2010
REVIEW: Liza Minnelli can still razzle-dazzle 'em
Liza, you still got it!
Showbiz legend Liza Minnelli's glory days may be past, but as her Wednesday concert at the Peace Center demonstrated, she still knows how to deliver a showstopper that lifts an audience to its feet.
Minnelli, a consummate entertainer, garnered the first of six standing ovations just by striding onto the stage and launching into a jazzy “Alexander's Ragtime Band.”;
The next two hours were a Liza lovefest.
With tremendous charisma and ebullience, Minnelli held her adoring fans spellbound.
Minnelli, at age 64, looked great, too, slimmed down in a black sequined top. She still struts and shimmies about the stage. She banters engagingly. Even her famed loopy laugh is endearing.
Her voice? It's darker and raspier these days. She's lost considerable belting power — once upon a time that voice could wipe out a small municipality — and her vibrato wobbles more than ever. Still, there were moments of magic Wednesday, as Minnelli opened the Peace Center's 20th season. Minnelli sells a song with such sass, pizzazz and emotional abandon that her vocal shortcomings matter little.
Minnelli also was a gracious performer. Shouts of “I love you Liza!” were answered by Minnelli: “I love you, too! I really do!”;
She assured the audience several times: “I'm so glad to be here,” later adding, “I'll never forget you. Never!”;
She sounded so earnest that no one likely doubted her for a moment.
Musically, there were several highlights. Minnelli offered a defiant “I Am My Own Best Friend” from “Chicago.” “But the World Goes 'Round,” written for Minnelli by her longtime collaborators John Kander and Fred Ebb, was a stirring anthem of endurance. Minnelli delivered an impassioned “Cabaret.”;
Some of the best moments were the most intimate. “Our Love is Here to Stay” was stylishly conveyed. Minnelli's rich low register lent itself nicely to the sultry blues “He's Funny That Way.”;
The fine pianist Billy Stritch joined Minnelli for a tasty “I Can't Give You Anything But Love.” Stritch was part of the fine jazz sextet that provided solid support for Minnelli.
“Maybe This Time” and “New York, New York” closed the concert in rousing style.
No doubt some of the heightened emotion at the Peace Center reflected Minnelli's ties to a grand showbiz tradition that reaches back to Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and, of course, Minnelli's mother, Judy Garland. Minnelli is one of the last of that great tradition.
But the show must go on, as the old adage says, and here's hoping Minnelli's exuberant show goes on for some time in the future.
Arts Writer Paul Hyde can be reached at 864-298-4004.