by patrice wilding (staff writer)
Published: October 29, 2012
When others speak of Liza Minnelli, words like "legendary," "captivating" and "superstar" are often bandied about.
In a conversation with the performer herself, however, one is more likely to hear the word "lucky" when discussing the entertainer's inimitable career.
Ms. Minnelli, who rose to stardom over a decades-spanning career with unforgettable roles such as Sally Bowles in "Cabaret" and sell-out concert engagements like her show "Liza with a 'Z'," is set to appear at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday.
Tickets for the 8 p.m. concert are $69 to $150 and are available at the box office, through Ticketmaster or by calling 826-1100 or 800-745-3000.
In a phone interview on a recent afternoon from her home in New York City, Ms. Minnelli recounted the journey that has brought her to a point in her career where she can look back at an impressive list of accolades and accomplishments. She is a rare industry star who has garnered at least one win in every award of distinction, with four Tonys, an Oscar, a special "Legends" Grammy, two Golden Globes and an Emmy to her name.
Paid her dues
While many credit the extreme talent that can be found in her lineage (she is the daughter of the late singer/actress Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli), Ms. Minnelli certainly has paid her dues and worked to make a name for herself as a singer, Broadway actress and movie and television star.
"I grew up around great people and great stars," she said gratefully. For Ms. Minnelli, however, her favorite kind of people are the everyday folks who come to her performances, and the aspiring artists she has the opportunity to teach at The Actor's Studio.
"I always found the best are just normal," she said. "They're not ego-burdened."
The 66-year-old star is quick to point out how much work it takes to stay on top of her game, and how lucky she has been to be surrounded by creative and talented people throughout her life.
"I go to dance class everyday," Ms. Minnelli said, noting that she has known her instructor, Luigi, since she was 3 years old. "When you're a dancer, you're an athlete. You're in training all the time."
She also spends a great deal of time rehearsing with her backing band and crew before a show or tour, practicing every number until it's just right.
"Once the show is written, you want to make sure ... you want to repair the timing," Ms. Minnelli explained. "Luckily, I've been doing this for a minute. I'm just sort of a pain-in-the-ass professional."
Keeping her live show fresh and energetic is also key to maintaining an audience through the years, she added. After all this time, it's her fans she is most concerned and excited about. In fact, meeting them on the road is her favorite part of performing, she said.
"Every new audience is a new show," Ms. Minnelli said. "That's what's so interesting about live performance. It'll always be a little different.
"Hopefully, they can expect to be entertained," she continued. "To entertain people is just that: What do people like to hear? I've had so many great songs written for me, that's what I'm proudest of."
Her most recent release, the long-awaited concert album "Legends of Broadway: Liza Minnelli Live at the Winter Garden," became available in the spring after a lengthy delay because of contractual complications regarding some of the "Cabaret" songs that were part of the recording. Originally performed in 1974 when Ms. Minnelli was just 27 years old, the performance was hailed as a brilliant spectacle to behold by critics and audiences who made it a sell-out success.
Marvin Hamlisch, the recently deceased lauded composer, served as musical director of the show. Ms. Minnelli, who said she counted Mr. Hamlisch as a friend since they were teens, noted her surprise and heartache over his passing this past August.
"I was so shocked. Marvin was the last person I expected to join the choir at this age," she said. "You have to find your point of view at this age. What I take on the stage with me is my gratitude to him and our friendship and his sense of personality.
"When your friends die, after the mourning period ... they kind of are with you all the time in your memory," Ms. Minnelli added.
In recent years, Ms. Minnelli has tapped into an entirely new generation of fans with much talked-about appearances on the television series "Arrested Development," and "Sex and the City 2," the big-screen adaptation of the hit HBO program.
For "Arrested Development," Ms. Minnelli cracked up audiences with her comedic turn as Lucille Austere (often referred to as "Lucille Two"), the foil to Bluth family matriarch Lucille and a sufferer of extreme vertigo. The series was renewed for several new episodes and a movie adaptation, and Ms. Minnelli happily shared that she has already filmed some scenes in which she reprises her role.
"It's a wonderful cast, so talented and really, really funny," she laughed. "The timing is just spectacular. We're all thrilled that that's happening."
She also wowed the masses with her performance of Beyoncé's hit single "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" for the "Sex and the City" movie, which was written and directed by Scranton native Michael Patrick King. Ms. Minnelli said she counts herself as a huge fan of the television series and was honored to be asked to be part of the film.
"I thought, 'How do I do it best?' I was lucky, I had choreographer Ron Lewis, who I think is one of the best in the world," Ms. Minnelli said. "He did a wonderful job. We pay tribute (to Beyoncé) and it was also my own."
The enormous talent and energy that Ms. Minnelli is famous for will be on full display in Wilkes-Barre, she promised. For a woman who is known to play some of the biggest-name venues in the world, the Kirby Center is no less deserving of her full attention, she said.
"I want to be there," Ms. Minnelli said earnestly. "I'm really thrilled they're coming to see me, that they asked me to come.
"I can't wait to meet everybody," she added. "I'm just a person. I hate fancy, let's put it that way. When I sing, it's about how everybody feels."
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; @pwildingTT on Twitter
If you go
Who: Liza Minnelli
When: Saturday, doors open at 7 p.m.; concert at 8 p.m.
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes-Barre
Details: Tickets are $69 to $150 and are available at the box office, through Ticketmaster or by calling 826-1100 or 800-745-3000.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story misspelled Ms. Minnelli's name.