Sunday, November 21, 2010
Liza Minnelli performs at the St. George Theatre with an all-out, non-stop, razz-ma-tazz, feel-good show!
Published: Sunday, November 21, 2010, 12:07 AM
Those eyes. That face. That voice.
The inimitable, unmistakable Liza Minnelli took the stage last night with an all-out, non-stop, razz-ma-tazz, feel-good show that marked the living legend's debut performance inside Staten Island's majestic St. George Theatre.
"I thank you so much! Yes, I am here! Staten Island -- yeah! And at the beautiful St. George Theatre!" an awed Ms. Minnelli said. "I heard about it my whole life."
Last night's show was Ms. Minnelli's comeback performance after being sidelined by bronchial pneumonia so badly that she had to cancel several shows nationwide last month.
At one point, looking out at the sold-out audience, which gave her a standing ovation even before she sang her first note, she remarked: "What a way to come back from pneumonia ... They locked me up in my room for 5-and-a-half weeks ... but this is my first time out," she said to almost unstoppable applause.
And last night, the 64-year-old entertainer showed no signs of slowing down as she opened the evening with "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
Ms. Minnelli sparkled in a sequined black top that caught every glint of light as she moved, black pants and a flowing red scarf that kept the spotlight on her.
No one could take their eyes of this powerhouse performer as Ms. Minnelli moved, shimmied and danced, accompanied by a six-piece band that included longtime pianist and friend Billy Strich as her wingman on stage.
The 5-foot, 4-inch entertainment icon has compiled an impressive list of accolades: An Oscar, an Emmy, three Tony Awards, two-time Golden Globe winner
and Grammy awardee.
She is, of course, the consummate performer -- to the audience's sheer delight. And in a lavish theater built in 1929 and noted for its history as a Vaudeville playhouse, Ms. Minnelli, in her own special way, paid tribute to her family's theatrical roots; both her maternal grandparents as well as her mother, the beloved Judy Garland, performed in Vaudeville.
Ms. Minnelli told jokes, had fun, danced and sang throughout the evening. She clearly enjoys entertaining, but even more, loves being in an intimate setting and connecting with her audience. Even while on stage, she makes one feel as if she is a good friend sitting right next to you in the living room.
And she's at her best telling stories. At one point, Ms. Minnelli recalled how she stepped in to fill the shoes of Gwen Verdon to play Roxie Hart in "Chicago" on Broadway in 1975.
She said he reached out to friend Bob Fosse; Fosse said he was concerned, because an actress had never done this before (the role was usually filled by the understudy). Ms. Minnelli said she told Fosse: "Let's not tell anyone."
Audiences attending the shows didn't know Liza had taken over until they were in their seats, she said. "I loved it," she said of the opportunity, for which she received rave reviews and critical acclaim. "And I love this song," she said, before launching into "My Own Best Friend."
She didn't skimp on the jokes either. While introducing the song, Ms. Minnelli talked about why her character was in jail.
"Roxie Hart murders her husband." Alluding to her four failed marriages, she deadpanned: "I know exactly how she feels," garnering heavy laughter.
Before she even belted a note, "Cabaret" had the audience on its feet, applauding; she even threw in a few of the famed dance moves she featured while playing the role that won her an Oscar in 1972.
Island fans couldn't have been happier.
"My mom is a big fan," said Georgena Russo, 62, of Great Kills, who came with her husband, John, 63. They brought along her mother, Georgina Ulrich, 80, as a birthday gift.
"I love her. I love everything about her," Mrs. Ulrich said.
"I love Liza -- and that's Liza with a Z," chimed a smitten Louis Campanella, 63, accompanied by his wife, Anna, 59, of Brooklyn. "Her voice is great."
And it wasn't just run-of-the-mill fans in the theater. Newly retired Alberta Brescia and her friend, Dr. Anne Merlino, of Silver Lake said they are both Minnelli fans.
"She's an amazing headliner and it doesn't get any better than this," said Fred Cerullo, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Central Partnership.
While Dr. Larry Arann, chairman of the theater's board of trustees, added that Ms. Minnelli's presence proves how much the theater is becoming a legitimate venue for top-notch performers.
Sisters Doreen Cugno and Luanne Sorrentino, the theater's executive director and CFO/director of operations, respectively, spent their day smitten, talking to Ms. Minnelli and watching her during the pre-show sound check.
"She was great," Mrs. Cugno said.