Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony-award winner Liza Minnelli was the belle of the ball Friday, when Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts’ Encore Celebration Gala Weekend kicked off with a black-tie affair at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Downtown Indianapolis.
Minnelli, in a red jacket and black pants, sat between her pal Michael Feinstein — the celebrity crooner who is the center’s artistic director — and his partner Terrence Flannery.
But when it was show time, Minnelli headed for the stage with Feinstein. The first time, she thought the sound needed adjusting, so she walked up and offered some directions while the audience chuckled. The second, she performed “I Love a Violin” with Feinstein (who she calls “Baby”) at the piano.
In interviews, Minnelli made it a point to support Feinstein’s Great American Songbook Initiative. Along with Frank Sinatra,Rita Moreno and composer Jimmy Webb, Minnelli is being honored this weekend with aninduction into Feinstein’s Great American Songbook Hall of Fame — a designation for those who help preserve the Songbook, also known as American Standards, in popular culture.
“It’s our history,” Minnelli said of the Songbook. “It’s as important to kids as teaching history. Also, it will give them a different rhythm.”
Friday’s dinner and tonight’s performance, which includes Feinstein, Megan Hilty (from TV’s “Smash”), guitar virtuoso Jose Felicianoand Tom Wopat, a vocalist and actor best known for playing Luke Duke on TV’s “Duke’s of Hazzard,” are all part of a gala fundraising weekend to benefit the center.
Event co-chairs Elizabeth and Stephen Taylor looked to be having a great time at the kickoff.
“Everybody seems to be enjoying being dressed up and getting out,” said Stephen Taylor.
In other Minnelli-in-Indianapolis news, Indianapolis hair stylist Emmett Cooper cut her hair before she headed out on the town.
“What a nice, genuine person and funny,” he said. “She hugged me three or four times. She is really sweet.”
Call Cathy Kightlinger at 317-444-6067 and follow her on Twitter @ckightlinger.