Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Monday, October 31, 2011

Liza Minnelli takes Toronto ~ ...And then we have a moment backstage.
Thirty seconds after my phone interview with Liza Minnelli came to an end, I got a call at my desk.
"I have Liza back for you," said her assistant, at which point the star got on the phone to tell me that she really enjoyed our conversation and wanted to meet me. I actually didn't believe it was going to happen, even though she told me who to ask for backstage.
I planned to give it a try after her performance last night. Fortunately, given that when you meet a star you usually llike to say something warm and toasty – the show was pretty damned good.
She can't sing like she used to – most of the power is gone. But she's figured out how to solve that problem. She got through Cabaret – gotta have it, after all – by acting the song more than singing it. And it was a bravura performance. She understands self-parody, taking a comic pause after the lyric "That's what comes of too much pills and liquor" to reference her own battle with addiction.
And she does honour her gay fans, which I estimate made up about a third of the audience, singing a poignant song by Charles Aznavour called What Makes A Man A Man and introducing it by noting its bravery in honouring people's right to be who they are.
But it was the new material from Confessions (Warner) that really scored from a musical standpoint. They're in a key she can handle and she brings a huge amount of emotion to every word. Her a capella version of I'll Be Seeing You during the encore was a knockout.
The band, led by the brilliant pianist/music director Billy Strich, was sensational and super-tight, as they should be, given that most of them have been with Minnelli for over two decades. And though I wouldn't say there was any high stepping, the star still can shake it.
After the show I decided I'd see if I could wrangle same face time backstage and, while I didn't exactly sail through, I did finally get into the green room to pay my respects. Minnelli was relaxed and down to earth – she was even wearing sensible shoes.
Oct 31, 2011 at 08:45 AM

Sunday, October 30, 2011

H A P P Y H A L L O W E E N !

Liza Minnelli plays Toronto's Roy Thompson Hall ~ ON STAGE / Crowd welcomes the legend back to town
Xtra staff / Toronto / Friday, October 28, 2011
Liza Minnelli was welcomed back to Toronto by a friendly crowd at Roy Thompson Hall on Oct 28.

The singing and acting legend's performance in Cabaret won her an Academy Award for best Actress. She has also won a Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award.

Her storied past of love and loss made for some comedic moments when she introduced a song from Chicago sung by Roxie Heart, who was charged with murdering her husband.

Minnelli, whose mother was Judy Garland, continues to draw in the gay crowd. Below are highlights from Friday's show.

Friday, October 28, 2011

LIZA ~ Still hungry after four decades in the biz...
LIZA MINNELLI at Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe), Friday (October 28), 8 pm. $59.50-$199.50. 416-872-4255, See listing.
Music Feature
Liza Minnelli
Still hungry after four decades in the biz
How does someone survive four decades in the brutal entertainment business? Song-and-dance legend Liza Minnelli – winner of Tonys, Grammys and an Emmy and an Oscar – has two secrets: never do the same thing twice, and trust your audience.
“I don’t think of the business as brutal, actually,” she says over the phone from her home in New York City, sounding so excited she can barely catch her breath. “I always think, ‘Oh, that might be interesting. Ooh, no I’ve already done that – let’s do it another way.’”
That’s the approach she takes to Confessions (Universal), her disc of standards, the kind of project that’s not so easy to pull off. It works because Minnelli’s voice is unique, riveting and smoky, still with that signature quaver but absolutely pitch perfect.
She makes each tune her own, she says, by rethinking the lyrics. A song like At Last, which Beyoncé seized on for her performance at President Obama’s inaugural ball, is completely transformed in Minnelli’s hands.
“Sometimes that song is sung in desperation,” she says. “At last,” she sings to me with an edge. “But I’ve never heard it sung, like, ‘Whew, this is great.’ She lets out a big sigh. “At last – with a calmness and a coolness and relief.”
The show she brings to Toronto Friday, which she says changes every time (she’s already made it to over 30 cities) will be an intimate one.
“When I put a show together, I’m looking at every single person in that audience,” she says, her tone eager and urgent. “There are wonderful stories for each song. Sometimes I tell them, sometimes I don’t. You can tell what an audience wants to hear. But you have to listen – you have to pay attention. It’s like a tennis game – back and forth.”
Minnelli’s always been acutely aware of how she’s perceived. She joined the cast of Arrested Development in 2004 as a woman struggling with balance, a self-parody, perhaps, since she’s always been seen as psychically frail. She says it was just plain funny.
“I knew it the minute I met the man who invented it (Mitchell Hurwitz) and we got along so well. The idea of her having such awful things happen to her, getting so dizzy and falling off camera. We came up with the idea together.”
Then there was her appearance in Sex And The City 2, in which she sings at Carrie's friend's wedding, a hilarious punchline to a guest’s question, “Can it get any gayer than this?”
Minnelli appreciates her queer audience but claims she doesn’t understand the term “gay icon.”
“I don’t get it, honestly. I guess it’s that they understand anyone who’s struggled in any kind of way. They’ve kind of gone through the same thing I have – trying to be heard on our own.”
She starred in the original version of the film Arthur with Dudley Moore, and didn’t bother seeing this year’s remake.
“People don’t seem to like the new version, so what’s the point of putting myself through that? I dismissed it because of my love for Dudley. I think it’s a mistake to try to recreate anything he’s done.”
And, no, she wasn’t too impressed with Rufus Wainwright’s idea of recreating her mother, Judy Garland’s, famous concert at Carnegie Hall.
“Why is a guy getting up there to recreate something that was so wonderful, so perfect? Is that really a tribute? I just thought, ‘That’s weird.’”
She’s always embraced her extraordinary pedigree, which also includes her dad, film director Vincente Minnelli (Gigi). Her voice, now that she’s in her 60s, sounds more like Garland’s than ever. And, like a filmmaker, she supervises everything about her show: the set, the costumes, the lights.
“I got my drive from my mom and my dreams from my dad.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Liza Minnelli's weekend shows mark 46 years since her Sahara debut in 1965

Mike Weatherford | INTERVIEWS

By Mike Weatherford
Posted: Oct. 7, 2011 | 1:59 a.m.
She started dancing on Las Vegas stages at age 11. And she still does, even if it means recording an album in bed to give a knee time to heal.
Liza Minnelli is a Las Vegas legacy, her shows set for today and Saturday at the Las Vegas Hilton marking 46 years since her Sahara debut in late 1965. But her mother, Judy Garland, pulled her onstage and introduced her to a Flamingo audience in 1957.
"I danced. To 'Swanee,' " Minnelli says by phone during a rehearsal break. "I'd get up and dance, that's what I did. From about 7 to, I guess 12, she got me up onstage. I always danced, because that was my first love."
Minnelli's main love soon became musical theater. Las Vegas might never have seen much of her if her Broadway debut, "Flora the Red Menace," had run more than 87 performances. Seems the critics loved it more than the public.
Minnelli, the youngest winner of a leading actress Tony Award at 19, was about to become one of the youngest showroom headliners in Las Vegas.
"Somebody said, 'You have to do a nightclub act.' And I said, 'What do you mean? Huh?'... I was too young for that. I was underage. I couldn't even walk through the casino."
But it turned out some agents already had booked her at the Sahara without even making sure it was what she wanted to do. "I said, 'Oh, we gotta put something together.' "
Fortunately, she had the help of John Kander and Fred Ebb, the songwriting team who created "Flora" before going on to bigger successes with "Cabaret" and "Chicago."
She remembers Ebb saying, "All right, we'll do a nightclub act."
"It was so lucky that he did it, because he wrote 'Liza with a Z' and kind of gave me my identity."
Minnelli's career was thereafter tied to the duo. Her concerts are synonymous with what she calls "acting songs," and a few of those tunes Kander and Ebb wrote for Broadway (the "Cabaret" title song) or movies (the theme from "New York, New York") became standards.
"It's nice to look at the songs that my heritage has left. Those songs are my songs. It's just great!"
The Hilton shows will have a six-piece band, smaller than Minnelli fans have seen her with before. It's the tone of "Confessions," the dialed-down, whispery piano jazz album of two years ago, which will get some attention in this weekend's shows.
"I just had my knee operated on, and I didn't have anything to do, so I just had to lie in bed for six weeks," she explains. "So I said, 'Let's do something. Let's figure out some things we want to do.' "
She and longtime pianist Billy Stritch began recording standards in the spirit of sing-around-the-piano sessions that have drawn everyone from Tony Bennett to Janet Jackson to her home. (Last month, Stritch and Jim Caruso hosted the like-minded "Cast Party" for the local entertainment community at Alexis Park.)
"We were just recording things that we liked. And then (Decca Records) heard it, and they liked it so much they wanted to put it out. ... But I sang that whole album from my bed!" she says with a laugh.
She's been up and running since then, including attending a film festival in Vladivostok, Russia ("which is beyond Siberia!"), to support her friend Rock Brynner.
"I've been traveling and doing all kinds of things that have nothing to do with show business but have to do with my life," she says. At 65, she paces her performance schedule, and the big things go hand in hand with "catching up with friends and straightening my house up, walking my dogs, all that good stuff."
It doesn't bother her that the Las Vegas of today no longer much resembles the Vegas she grew up with. "Well you have to tap into your curiosity," she says, of "how it's changed and how the people who are going now in 20 years will remember it and say, 'Wow, what's happened to it?' "
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ or 702-383-0288.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: Liza Minnelli gives breathless, charming performance in Reno

Written by
Mimi Beck Knudsen
Lest anyone think this review is a pan of Liza Minnelli’s performance Wednesday night at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, let me make this clear: I love Liza. The near-capacity audience at her Reno show loves Liza, and Liza loves her fans. Some love her for her talent, some for her support of gay rights, some for simply being Judy’s little girl. I love Liza for two main reasons: Sally Bowles and Lucille 2.
Sally Bowles was Liza’s character in “Cabaret,” the 1972 musical that made Judy Garland’s little girl a star and whose soundtrack I wore out. Thirty-two years later, Minnelli was a recurring guest star on “Arrested Development,” where she played caricature of herself: Lucille Austero, friend and neighbor to the matriarch of the Bluth family, Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter), and girlfriend to the Bluth’s youngest son, Buster (Tony Hale). Liza was hilarious as Lucille 2, and her good-natured willingness to look ridiculous at her own expense cemented her place in my heart.

At 65 years old, and after throat, hip and knee surgeries, Liza took the stage at the GSR, breathlessly gushing how wonderful Reno, the GSR, the Grand Theatre and the audience were. She remained breathless for the entire show — a combination, I image, of age and altitude.

Wearing her signature black slacks and sequined black tunic top, along with a long red scarf, Lisa opened with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” She was accompanied by a six-piece orchestra, which sounded like it was three times that size. Her music director, Billy Stritch, was at the piano, and later in the show joined Liza for a duet of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”

With a set emphasizing ballads, some rather obscure, Liza also sprinkled in her standards, such as “Liza with a Z” — which I bet I hadn’t heard 40 years — and “But the World Goes ‘Round.”

Unfortunately, Liza had to sing the two songs for which she is best known — and these are the two she shouldn’t have. With their respective glory notes, originally held for what seemed like forever, “Cabaret” and “New York, New York” are now out of Liza’s range. Nevertheless, both songs received standing ovations and shouts of, “We love you, Liza,” from the adoring audience.

Throughout the evening, Liza sprinkled in stories of her amazing show business life, like when “Uncle Frank” (Sinatra) asked permission to sing “New York, New York” and the time she filled in for an ailing Gwen Verdon on stage in “Chicago.”

My two favorite musical moments of Wednesday’s show were Liza’s rendition of the Peggy Lee song, “He’s a Tramp,” from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp,” and Liza’s amazing a cappella encore, “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Although the audience had started to shuffle out of the Grand Theater, the encore was a singular moment — a church-like silence descended on the showroom as Liza bid her fans adieu in her own
incomparable way.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Minnelli captivates crowd with hits, Broadway tales, and jazz gems
Updated: October 2, 2011, 10:52 AM
No one wears a spotlight better than Liza.
And boy, were there spotlights. Her entrance Friday night, in the Events Center of the Seneca Niagara Casino, garnered the first flash of light, through which Ms. Minnelli strode effectively if not gracefully. Another came with the iconic arms-stretched pose at the finale of “Cabaret,” and again in the downbeat of “New York, New York.”
She doesn’t move with the same grace or nuance that gave those original performances their legendary status, but at an old 65, she moves nonetheless.
If you know anything about her legacy, you’d surmise that it’s in the glow of stage lights that she’s most confident and alive. Her entire life has been about making these moments possible, even here in what amounted to a hotel banquet hall, the sound of slot machines not too far out of reach.
When she sings for you to come to the cabaret, or come through New York, she knows what she’s talking about. She’s been to the party, and wants you to come.
The audience Friday night wasn’t about to turn down an invitation. They gave her a rousing welcome and showered her with loyalty the whole night. She appeared genuine in her replies and air-hugs, which must be hard to do at this stage of a career.
“I love you too, baby,” came out of her mouth as often as lyrics. It was sweet, every time.
Her show benefited from the love. A couple of times, she changed her set list on the fly, apparently in response to a fan’s request or shout-out. Three songs in, she turned around to music director Billy Stritch, her microphone secluded behind her back, and signaled them to play Kander & Ebb’s “My Own Best Friend,” from the musical “Chicago.”
She introduced it with the story of her surprise guest appearance in the 1975 Broadway show, during which she substituted for star Gwen Verdon. Here, Liza broke down the character arch of the song, a defiant declaration of determination and self-confidence. When it came time to sing, in full character as vaudeville-murderess Roxie Hart, she wore a different hat; she can’t say a sentence without it coming out a story.
We got similar breakdowns for “Ring Them Bells,” a comic romance, and her anthem “Say Liza (Liza with a ‘Z’),” both of which were knockouts.
Besides blazing through the classics, Liza and her six-man jazz combo played a few gems from last year’s “Confessions” album, a jazz record that is quieter and subtler than we’re used to hearing from this showstopper. She turned the Maureen McGovern torch song “Confession” into a rueful elegy that felt honest. The upbeat “You Fascinate Me So” was well paced and reminiscent of a smoky Lena Horne.
The room came for the hits, but these jazz numbers were a breath of fresh air. It would be interesting to hear newer arrangements of her brassy hits this way. It might not be popular with the die-hards in the audience, but then again, when you have them in the palm of your hands, anything is possible.
Concert Review
Liza Minnelli
Friday night in the Seneca Niagara Casino Events Center, Niagara Falls.

Liza Minnelli in Reno ~ OCT 5th!

Reno-Tahoe This Week: Cabaret star Minnelli returns after a three-year absence

Published: Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011 - 12:00 am
It's such a busy week in Northern Nevada entertainment that it seems like summer even as the autumn colors make the Lake Tahoe basin and the Truckee River corridor particularly beautiful.
The biggest news is that one of the masters is back in town. Liza Minnelli returns, this time to the Grand Sierra on Wednesday.
In the three years since Minnelli last played the Northern Nevada area, she's won another Tony (her fourth), this one for "Liza's at the Palace," a concert that was really about two entertainers, Liza herself and her godmother, the late Kay Thompson.
Thompson was one of the pioneers of the nightclub scene Minnelli inherited, having performed for years with the Williams Brothers, including Andy. She also mentored many of the great performers, including Judy Garland, and had a major screen success in "Funny Face."
Minnelli played the Grand Sierra back in 1990 when the hotel was Bally's. Few talents could handle that full-acre stage as easily as she did.
One of the few entertainers ever to win the Tony, the Grammy, the Emmy and the Oscar, Minnelli has a big repertoire. Still, most audiences will have to be educated about Thompson and may find unexpected pleasures ("I Love a Piano") if Minnelli decides to pay tribute to her. The treasures of "Cabaret" and "New York, New York," however, will be fully expected (8 p.m.; $75, $105; www.grandsierra