Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Passion still shows when Liza hits the stage
By Everett Evans | November 12, 2012

Liza Minnelli can still do it - still storm on stage, take command and galvanize an audience.
She proved that Saturday at Galveston's Grand 1894 Opera House, from the moment she strutted out to apply her old-time show-biz sell to "Alexander's Ragtime Band," the venerable Irving Berlin standard that's virtually the granddaddy of 20th-century song.
It made a fitting opener for a star who is one of the last of her breed: the pure entertainer who's crazy about performing, loves her audience and always gives it everything she's got.
Sure, the voice is not what it once was - breathless at times, with moments of slurred diction or uncertain pitch. It's hard for her to nail those big high notes now, harder still to hold them, so she sometimes tries the repeat-attack approach. Yet the anticipatory "Can I hit it?" leading into such moments only puts the audience more in her corner. Her step, too, is wobbly now and then, and she spends half her stage time perched in a director's chair. Given her tumultuous life and health problems of recent years (including hip replacements and a broken knee), it's a wonder she can stand at all.
Yet it's amazing how little any of this matters, because her presence, charisma and performer's instincts are undiminished. The gutsiness and indomitability are as much a part of her mystique as her storied career and phenomenal lineage. The rapport between the star and her fans has an almost-revivalistic fervor, as was certainly the case Saturday. She knows how to build the rapt attention and rhapsodic enthusiasm to fever pitch, making every song a personal manifesto.

Especially plying her husky lower range in intimate readings of quieter ballads, Minnelli's voice still impressed with its warmth, musicality and genuine passion.
Intense feeling and neat phrasing marked her graceful melding of the Gershwins' "Love Is Here to Stay" and Kurt Weill and Alan Jay Lerner's "Here I'll Stay." She was slyly knowing in Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz's innocently naughty "Confession." With Hugh Martin and Marshall Barer's "On Such a Night as This," she artfully worked the nostalgia for golden age Hollywood. She applied her considerable acting skill and nuance of gesture in a telling reading of "What Makes a Man?" Charles Aznavour's poignant, pre-gay rights portrait of a lonely drag queen.
Naturally, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Minnelli's own patron saints among the great songwriters, were well represented. She recalled her replacement stint in the original "Chicago" with the torchy "My Own Best Friend." Of course, the night's biggest cheers greeted her signature songs "Maybe This Time," "Cabaret," "New York, New York," and (arguably the team's best of all) "The World Goes Round," in which her intense focus and charged delivery proved particularly potent.
Her superb accompanist/music director Billy Stritch and his seven-member band supported her splendidly throughout; he also contributed some spiffy vocals, really percolating in "No Moon at All."
Even without sequins (the airline lost her luggage, she said, explaining her simple red sweater over black top and slacks), Minnelli razzle-dazzled 'em. Whatever it is that makes a star, she's still got it.

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