DAVID J. SPATZ
For the Courier-Post
IF YOU GOLiza Minnelli performs at 8 p.m.
Saturday in Borgata’s Event Center. Tickets are $75, $85 and $95, available through theborgata.com or ComcastTIX at (877) 544-8499.
Start spreading the news — Liza Minnelli isn’t letting a little thing like a broken leg stand in the way of her debut at Borgata’s Event Center on Saturday.
The legendary show business triple threat — singer, dancer and actress — is back on her feet after breaking her leg in three places in November.
“I wish I could say I did it dancing, but the truth is that I tripped over my dog,” Minnelli said. So the breaks were set, her leg was placed in a cast for six weeks and Minnelli has been “working on it” and feeling better.
Besides, compared to the other orthopedic challenges she’s faced, a broken leg is a relatively minor setback.
A lifetime of pounding the boards required her to have both of her hips replaced, the first in 1995 and the second five years later. Then, two years ago, she underwent surgery for a total knee replacement.
“I have so much steel in my body that when I go through one of those things at the airport, it (plays a song),” she said with a laugh during a recent chat from her home in New York.
She likes to tell people that “on the top half I’m Dorothy, and on the bottom, I’m the daughter of the Tin Man,” a reference to her mother Judy Garland’s iconic role in “The Wizard Of Oz.”
Yet, in spite of those medical challenges — compounded by vocal chord surgery and a near-fatal bout of encephalitis a decade ago — Minnelli, 65, soldiers on. In fact, she said her 2010 knee replacement had a musical silver lining.
Had she not been confined to bed for several weeks after the surgery, she might not have come up with the material for “Confessions,” her first studio album in years.
“They told me after the surgery that I had to stay in bed, like, forever, and I thought I was going to go bananas,” she said. So she called her longtime pianist and friend Billy Stritch, himself a fine solo performer when he’s not working with Minnelli, and told him to come to her home with a keyboard so she could at least stave off boredom with music.
Minnelli and Stritch didn’t have a clue they were actually cooking up an album, but they began coming up with ideas for songs and arrangements.
“Finally, someone said this should be an album,” she said. “I wasn’t looking to do an album. I was just trying to find something to do while I was stuck in bed.”
Minnelli’s body of work stretches across a variety of mediums, and she’s scored the biggest prizes from each. She won an Academy Award for her 1972 performance in “Cabaret,” an Emmy Award for her special “Liza With A Z,” a Living Legend Grammy Award and five Tony Awards, including three for best actress in the plays “Flora The Red Menace,” “The Rink” and “The Act.”
It’s hard for her to single out a favorite stage show, recording or television special, but she does have one movie that holds a special place in her heart. If you’re thinking “Cabaret,” think again.
“I’m very proud of all of (my movies) because I’ve really been lucky,” she said. “But I think I’m proudest of ‘The Sterile Cuckoo,’ because that was purely an acting role, and to be nominated (for an Oscar) for your first (leading role) is very special.”
Although her Borgata gig will be her first Atlantic City performance in nearly five years, she was a regular on the Boardwalk casino showroom circuit ever since making her debut here in 1985 at the original Golden Nugget.
During the first 10 years of her Atlantic City performances, Minnelli was accompanied by a huge orchestra with a full string section. But that was in the days when casinos were flush and footed the bill for all those musicians.
Eventually, most casinos that still had house bands started to cut costs. They told the performers they would have to pay for adding musicians to the house band. Since performing is as much of a business as it is an art form, and the goal is to make a profit, adjustments had to be made on the artist’s end of the deal, too.
Minnelli’s longtime conductor Bill “Pappy” LaVorgna, who was also her mother’s music director a generation earlier, told Minnelli she didn’t need all those musicians anyway.
“Pappy told me I could do it with 12 (musicians), so I told him to go out and hire them,” she said of LaVorga, who died in 2007. Later, she scaled back to six or seven musicians, which is who she’ll bring to Borgata.
“It’s so much fun because it makes it so intimate,” she said. “It’s just me, the musicians and the audience. It’s the simplicity of it all. I love it.”
Minnelli is one of the few entertainers of her generation whose audience continues to grow. She still gets her share of fans from her days as a child performer. But she also sees a good number of young people who weren’t even born when she was cracking up movie audiences with her performance in “Arthur.”
Minnelli doesn’t think there’s any deep thinking needed as to why she attracts younger people to her live shows.
“I think its something as simple as someone saying, ‘Have you seen her? No? Well, you should, she’s good,’” she said.
So, mended broken leg, bionic body and all, what can her audience expect to see this weekend? Minnelli didn’t give the question a moment’s thought.
“You’re going to see me at my best,” she said. “Broken leg and all.”
On stageAussie comedian Jim Jefferies performs in Borgata’s Music Box tonight at 9. Tickets are $29.50 and $35, available through theborgata.com or ComcastTIX at (877) 544-8499.
Caesars Atlantic City presents Van Halen at Boardwalk Hall with special guest Kool and the Gang opening the show Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $40 to $175, available through ticketmaster.com or (800) 736-1420.
Israeli dubstep music producer Borgore performs at the House of Blues at Showboat Saturday at 10 p.m Tickets are $32, available through ticketmaster.com or (800) 736-1420.
Singer and songwriter Fiona Apple works Borgata’s Music Box Saturday at 9 p.m The show is listed as sold out, but check with theborgata.com or ComcastTIX at (877) 544-8499 for last-minute availability.
Country music’s Travis Tritt brings his show to the arena at Trump Taj Mahal Saturday at 8 p.m Tickets are $26.60, available through ticketmaster.com or (800) 736-1420.
Legendary country-pop crossover star Kenny Rogers brings 40 years of hits to Harrah’s Resort Saturday at 9 p.m. Tickets range from $35 to $50, available through ticketmaster.com or (800) 736-1420.
R&B singer Toni Braxton teams with performer and producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds at Caesars Atlantic City Saturday at 9 p.m. Tickets range from $55 to $120, available through ticketmaster.com or (800) 736-1420.