Liza Minnelli performs a concert at the Olympia, Monday, July. 11, 2011, in Paris. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
Posted: 08/09/2012 07:23:21 PM PDT
August 10, 2012 2:38 AM GMTUpdated: 08/09/2012 07:37:25 PM PDT
There are performers around Los Angeles who do tribute shows to Liza Minnelli, and why not? The legendary entertainer doesn't hit town that often. But Liza fans can rejoice and catch the real thing Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl in a one-night performance of her "Confessions" show.
The daughter of a couple of showbiz legends herself - film director Vincente Minnelli ("Gigi," "The Band Wagon") and Judy Garland - the singer began performing in 1963 at age 17, and over the years has won an Oscar, three Tonys, two Golden Globes, a Grammy and an Emmy and in 2008 was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.
"I've been around forever, haven't I?" Minnelli says with a distinctive laugh on a call from New York City, where she is based.
Minnelli, 66, remembers her first experience at the Bowl was sitting on the grass. She thinks it was a Gershwin concert her father took her to. "Ira Gershwin was my godfather," she says, with the ease of Hollywood royalty.
Though her mother had one of the most recognizable voices ever Minnelli says, "I didn't inherit her voice. Her voice was perfect."
She actually learned about being a singer from the French entertainer Charles Aznavour, who is now 88. (The two did a live album together in 1995 - "Aznavour Minnelli: Paris, Palais des Congres.")
"I went to see him in New York when I was young, and this little guy walked onstage and completely acted his way through each song and I was fascinated by that," remembers Minnelli. "So I went backstage and asked him if I could be his protege. And he said yes. And over the years he has written some songs for me. He was a really huge part of my life."
Over the past 15 years, Minnelli seems to be on some kind of a continual comeback, but that may be more from the travails in her life than from her commitment to performing. She has been divorced four times, had vocal-chord surgery and in 2000 had to overcome a serious case of viral encephalitis, which some doctors believed would leave her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
But by 2002, she returned to performing with the show "Liza's Back," which was partially a tribute to her mother. Since then she's made TV appearances and another tour in 2008, "Liza's at the Palace," which included some songs by her godmother, Kay Thompson, a songwriter-performer who also was the creator of the "Eloise" children's books.
Liza's latest stage show is "Confessions," which is the name of her 2010 studio album, her first in 15 years.
Minnelli was in bed recovering from knee surgery and going "bananas" when she called up her pianist, Billy Stritch, and asked him to come over to think about a new album.
"We started to think songs that we both like that were love songs - but wacko," she says. "That's how we came up with the concept for `Confessions."'
The result is a collection of quiet, jazzy, piano-driven ballads, including standards such as "At Last" and "This Heart of Mine."
Minnelli says she tries to bring that same intimacy to her stage show. "It's just seven players and myself. And from being trained all those years by Fred Ebb (co-writer of "Cabaret"), now I go with whatever happens onstage. I look at the audience and listen to them. Then I sing - and occasionally tell a funny story."
Minnelli says after many years of doing it, she still enjoys touring.
"You know what it is," she adds, "I like whatever I'm doing at the time. I really do. If I'm doing Broadway, I'm crazy about it. If I have a stage show, a movie or TV show, I put all my energy into that."
In May, Sony released Minnelli's long-lost concert album "Liza Minnelli Live at the Winter Garden," which was recorded in 1974. The album was briefly released at the time but withdrawn because of contractual conflicts over her performance of songs from "Cabaret."
The show, called simply "Liza," was, like "Cabaret," directed by Bob Fosse. The songwriting team of John Kander and Ebb supplied Minnelli with new songs for the show.
While Saturday's performance probably will include fan favorites like "Maybe This Time" and "New York, New York," it's likely to be tinged with a touch of sadness, too, with the passing Monday of composer Marvin Hamlisch, whom Minnelli has known since she was a teen. He was the musical director for "Liza."
"I have lost my first lifelong best friend," the singer wrote in a statement.
Earlier this year, Minnelli had to put off a guest spot on TV's "Hot in Cleveland" after breaking an ankle, but she was looking fabulous at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles in April for a screening and discussion of "Cabaret" for the 40th anniversary of the film.
"I have 16 pins in it and a plate. But that's OK," says the star, ever the trouper. "I have two false hips, a false knee and now this in my ankle and I'm still going."
No argument there.
Liza MinnelliWhen: 8 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave.
Information: 323-850-2000 or www.hollywoodbowl.com
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