By Michael Barnes
There was only one Judy Garland. And there is just one Liza Minnelli.
Taken together, mother's and daughter's careers have spanned almost 100 years of stage, screen, television, concerts and recordings. Minnelli's vocation, which has sometimes bumped along the roller coaster of her personal life, is swinging upward, with a tenderly delivered album of standards, "Confessions," frequent TV guest spots and, of course, concerts, including the upcoming one at the Long Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday .
Her longtime pianist, Texan Billy Stritch, whose work is featured prominently on the album, recently played the Long Center's Kodosky Lounge with Klea Blackhurst for Austin Cabaret Theatre and will return with this concert.
Bubbling and boisterous, Minnelli chatted with us between rehearsals.
American-Statesman: What's the story behind the album title 'Confessions'?
Liza Minnelli: It's a song that I heard when I was, I don't know, 12. My father had a recording with Judy Holliday singing, arranged by Gerry Mulligan. I learned right away. And I remembered it.
This is among your most personal, intimate albums, along the lines of 1970's 'Come Saturday Morning.'
I sang it from my bed! (Laughs) I was having my knee replaced. So I sang it in my bedroom, accompanied by my small piano. I couldn't walk at all. I'm one of those people who, God forbid I don't do anything.
How do you put a personal twist into a standard song?
I think of the words always and what they say and how I relate to them. I always pretend. I take it from: "What happened to her? She was thinking these thoughts. Where is she? Does she live in the country with decals on her refrigerator? Does she live in the city and looks out on the river and sees the boats? What's the situation?" So an actor's point of view. That way the words become more personal to me.
Will you sing selections from this album in Austin?
I sure will. Will you be there?
You bet. 'On Such a Night as This' is one of my cabaret favorites. (Austin's Sterling Price-McKinney popularized it here.) I think I've only heard one or two other recordings. Michael Feinstein was one
I talked to him! Hugh Martin (composer for Garland's "Meet Me in St. Louis') wrote it for his show. (One lyric: "Twas such a night this / When Judy Garland swore / I just adore him / How can I ignore the boy next door?")
You certainly have plenty more material to choose from, with two dozen films, two dozen stage shows and a dozen TV specials under your belt. How do you select songs for your concerts?
I try to find a point of view. Most concerts are thematic. Like the Radio City show, or the Carnegie Hall show, which started with "I Happen to Like New York." People travel with me on this road we are taking for an hour and half. The audience is as much a part it as anyone. It won't ever be the same. It changes a little each time. I pay attention to what they are enjoying or laughing at or going with or grooving on. It may be the same songs, but the point of view of the set changes.
You've got an eye for zany material. I'm thinking of 'Arrested Development,' 'Drop Dead Diva' and even the Snickers commercials. How do you choose your guest roles?
If I can recognize the person. For instance, in "Sterile Cuckoo," Pookie was somebody that everybody knew, or was, or was related to. So I understood her. So it's if I think I can bring something to it.
Your name is associated with the 'Arrested Development' movie. Will you be doing it?
I love that show! So much fun to work on. The people were so smart, so nice and imaginative. But I haven't heard from anyone about the movie. It's been a rumor for years.
Your professional career is now 50 years old. Your mother's career lasted 45 years. That's almost 100 years between you. To what do you attribute this astonishing longevity?
And my father (movie director Vincente Minnelli)! He started at 15. Didn't die until he was 83. I have no idea why careers last. You just keep trying to do your best. You stay curious about is happening and what are the new ideas, the new people and the new things. And I guess people like my shows.
In the early '70s, you said in an interview something along the lines that what distinguished you is that you're a survivor.
I love life, and I'm curious and I'm grateful.
Liza Minnelli in concert
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Long Center for the Performing Arts
Information: 457-5100, thelong