Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Liza Minnelli Stepping Out! 2015

Thursday, February 28, 2013

LIZA & ALAN ~ The Last Vaudevillians

After years of friendship, Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming are finally hitting the New York stage together. Our exclusive interview with the iconic stars reveals what they’ve learned about performing, themselves and each other along the way.
Alan Cumming will never forget the first time he felt Liza Minnelli. Yes, felt. That’s because they touched before they ever spoke. The Scottish actor was having his Broadway breakthrough in the celebrated 1998 revival of Cabaret on Broadway and, a few weeks into the run, Cabaret’s lyricist, Frank Ebb, brought a special guest to see it. “I remember at one point during the show I walked through the audience after singing a song…and then I walked right past Liza. I was all kind of druggie; that was what my character was doing at that point in the show, and Liza hit me in the back and went, ‘Fabulous’!” Cumming relates with his best Minnelli cackle.
 “She came to my dressing room afterwards and was sort of squashed against my towel that was hanging on a hook,” he continues. “I went ‘Gosh! You’re squashed against my towel’ and she said ‘I’ll squash against anything for you, Alan.’ It was just a crazy, magical kind of meeting. Then she said ‘Let’s be friends.’ And it’s funny because I know that’s sort of a trite thing that people say but she meant it, you know?” And the pair have been friends ever since.
Over the years the two bonded over their breakout roles in Cabaret, Minnelli in the 1972 film and Alan in the West End and Broadway revivals. But it wasn’t until a certain New York nightlife promoter attempted to bring them out to the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove that the two ever thought of performing together. “I had already booked Alan for my Icon Series and I knew he and Liza were good friends,” explains Daniel Nardicio, who produced the duo’s Ice Palace show. “I’ve always wanted to work with Liza and thought I’d attempt what no one had done before: getting them together to do songs from Cabaret. But what made the show even more exciting was doing it on Fire Island. When she said yes it was the happiest day of my career.”
“We were just friends and then he called and said, ‘Do you want to do this thing?’ and I said ‘Sure!’” recalls Minnelli enthusiastically, explaining she had been to Fire island many times before and fell in love with the idea. “We had such a laugh [doing the show] and it was really an amazing night,” adds Cumming. “We did two concerts, and then we went out to some of those wee bars in Cherry Grove. Liza and I were chatting and she’s like, ‘We should take this to Broadway!’…I just love she’s 67 years old and she’s still up for anything.” 
But what started out as a joke turned into an exciting new idea. “We sort of thought: we’d had such fun. We’d never done a proper show like that before—it’s difficult with both our schedules.” So when Nardicio came back with news that The Town Hall was interested in bringing the Fire Island cabaret to the city, the pair jumped at the chance. 
The March 13 and 14 shows at The Town Hall, which come on the heels of Minnelli’s 67th birthday on March 12, will be much bigger productions than their Fire Island counterparts. Though Nardicio is once again producing and Lance Horne is back as musical director, the show will feature a full band and plenty of new songs. “Even if you saw the Fire Island one I would think a very large percentage of this one will be completely new,” says Cumming. “It’s fun, it’s exciting and the beginning is hilarious.” Minnelli adds: “I think it’s the chemistry between us that people [will] enjoy.”
So what is it like for two classic vaudevillians to be working so intimately after all these years? Well, they both admit they’ve learned a lot from each other. Between the laughs—and there are lots of those—Cumming has discovered some exciting new lessons. “When I’ve seen Liza perform she gets so nervous and then you see her grow in confidence,” he says. “It’s like the build of a song, her whole concert, and it ends with this big finish that is so emotional. I’ve learned that if you are open to the audience and you allow them to see the real you then you can do pretty much anything you like.” 
For Minnelli, the experience with Cumming is that of discovering a kindred spirit. “There is something unique and wonderful about him,” she says. “There is something so magnetic and fun. It’s like he’s got a secret he’s not telling anyone.” Plus, Cumming helps to bring out her naughty side. “I think onstage I make her feel safe,” he says.
This idea that two accomplished performers—both of whom have a slew of other projects at the same time, including Cumming’s one-man Macbeth on Broadway and Minnelli’s concert at Royal Albert Hall in London—can share something new with each other is so much of what bonds them. And it is evident their friendship will endure the rest of their lives. “I send [audio] messages to my assistant while I’m out rehearsing and it’s so funny when I hear [Minnelli] in the background laughing and coughing,” recalls Cumming fondly. “I feel so honored that I get a chance to work with this national treasure. She’s also just hilarious. We just crack up the entire time.”

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Would lov to see their show in California,