Multitalented Liza Minnelli comes to Stamford for benefit concert, honor
Award-winning singer, dancer and actress Liza Minnelli performs in June at the second annual amfAR Inspiration Gala at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. On Friday, March 30, she is expected to receive an Arts Legacy award and perform in concert at the Palace Theatre in Stamford, as part of the third annual Palace Gala, presented by the Stamford Center for the Arts. For more information, visit www.scalive.org. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images) Photo: Contributed Photo / Stamford Advocate Contributed
Decades of performing have done little to diminish Liza Minnelli's love of her work or her fans' desire to see her expand her creative territory.
"It's absolute magic to me," she said, during a recent phone interview, of the feeling she experiences every time she steps out on to the stage.
Then, as now, this award-winning singer, dancer and actor said she strives to surround herself with people who have as much fun performing as she does, as well as those who can teach her a thing or two. When asked whether she finds them or they find her, she thought for a moment.
"I find them, or they pass into my life," she said. "You know, I am a director's daughter."
Minnelli is indeed a film director's daughter, but that's just half the story. Minnelli was born in Los Angeles on March 12, 1946, to Vincente Minnelli ("Meet Me in St. Louis," "An American in Paris") and actress and singer Judy Garland.
By the time she was 16, Minnelli had made her way to New York City, where she gained attention for her performance in an off-Broadway revival of the musical "Best Foot Forward." Three years later, she won the Tony Award for leading actress in "Flora The Red Menace."
This was just the start of a series of appearances in Broadway productions that would stretch into the late 1990s and beyond, including "Chicago," "The Rink," "The Act" and "Victor/Victoria," as well as her one-woman show.
Her work on stage earned her four Tony Awards, but she also was honored for her movie work, including an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for her role as Sally Bowles in the 1972 film "Cabaret." Her other film work includes 1981's "Arthur" with Dudley Moore, and the sequel "Arthur 2" in 1988.
On Friday, March 30, Minnelli is expected to pick up another honor when she receives this year's Arts Legacy award from the Stamford Center for the Arts. The award will be handed out at the Palace Theatre in Stamford during the center's third annual Palace Gala, which also will include a benefit concert featuring Minnelli. Money raised will support the organization's Arts Education Program. Michael Widland of Weston and Moira Lyons of Stamford also will receive Arts Ovation Awards.
Minnelli's commitment to her art made her a perfect choice for the evening, said Elissa Getto, executive director of the Stamford Center for the Arts.
"Liza Minnelli is a true star, a true celebrity," said Getto, who first met Minnelli in the early 1990s when Getto was working as chief executive officer of Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Fla.
"I was thrilled to meet her," Getto said. "I remember it vividly ... because when she arrived backstage there was just this incredible burst of energy."
On this tour, Minnelli said she is bringing a more intimate show to the stage, rather than some of the bigger productions she has done in the past.
"It's just me and the audience and the band, and it seems to be going very well," she said.
Still, even as she tours, there are those fans who want her comedic talents to get the spotlight. For instance, there are a couple of Facebook pages calling for Minnelli to host "Saturday Night Live," on which she appeared in a cameo in 2009.
And fans of her "Lucille Austero," or "Lucille 2," character from the Emmy Award-winning comedy series "Arrested Development," which went off the air in 2006, are hoping she appears when the show returns for a fourth season next year.
"I'd love to do it," she said of "Saturday Night Live."
As for "Arrested Development," she said it had been a fun project that called for "out-and-out character comedy." When asked whether there was any chance the fans' hopes would be answered, Minnelli said, "I haven't heard from them ... but, hopefully, they will let me know."
She's also hoping to open up some time to make an appearance on "Hot in Cleveland," which stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White. She was slated to appear in an episode of the TV Land show, but a minor ankle injury forced her to cancel, according to a number of sources.
"Yes, we are trying to figure that out," she said of the rescheduling. "I am such a fan of that show. They are all brilliant.
"And Betty White," Minnelli said, pausing, before adding emphasis, "is the best."
However, on Friday, March 30, it will be Minnelli who people are coming to see. And, although this would be an apt time for her to enjoy the attention, she said her focus will be the people in the seats.
"I never think about me," she said. "I want you to have a wonderful time. And, maybe, for a minute, your life lightens up."
Stamford's Center for the Arts Palace Theatre, 61 Atlantic St., Stamford. Friday, March 30, 8 p.m. (gala 6-7:30 p.m.; awards ceremony 7:30-8 p.m.). $350 (gala, concert), $185, $110, $95 (concert only). 203-517-3426, http://www.scalive.org./