Thursday, December 04, 2008

Liza's At The Palace, But Where Are Critics To Start Spreadin' The News?

Liza's At The Palace, But Where Are Critics To Start Spreadin' The News?

What if a show opened and no critics were there to see it happen? Does that mean it doesn't exist?

Something close to that occurred last evening as Liza Minnelli made her return to Broadway in Liza's At The Palace...! with apparently only three regular theatre critics posting their post mortems so far (perhaps it was because there were no previews?? If so, I'll add to this as newspapers play catch-up).

Concluding that the show "is 100% fantastic entertainment," Joe Dziemianowicz of New York's Daily News offers a euphoric four out of five stars: "Minnelli's spectacular holiday happening Liza's at the Palace ...! finds Liza with a Z fit, funny, surprisingly energetic and in her best voice in ages -- though on occasion she does mistake volume for tone.... A spine-tingling recreation of her mother Judy Garland's 'Palace Medley' -- which she sang at the same theater decades ago -- sparkled with equally high-octane emotion and nostalgia."

Deeming the show "a slick and exuberant time-capsule," Linda Winer of Newsday gives props to Liza: "She doesn't hit all the pitches these days, though she didn't always in the old days, and that wobble is now wide enough to drive a limo through it. But her phrasing is terrific and her enthusiasm, thoroughly endearing. The show, which runs through the month, has a generous onstage orchestra (in tuxedos, no less) and an almost quaint quartet of mature male dancers."

Noting how "the woman knows how to a work a room," Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press offers huzzahs for the legend: "Liza Minnelli has sunny star-wattage to spare, a never-say-die attitude that is astonishing to watch.... and it would be foolish if you don't catch her act before it closes Dec. 28. Minnelli has always been a mixture of unabashed enthusiasm and heartbreaking vulnerability.... Both qualities are on display at the Palace, where Minnelli is delivering a sterling piece of entertainment that looks backward and forward."

Calling the production a "highly energetic and occasionally extraordinary new Broadway show," Brian Scott Lipton of Theatermania is mostly positive: "[Y]ou'll mostly be kept rapt by the sheer charisma and showmanship that Minnelli brings to the stage. To get the big questions out of the way, Minnelli's voice isn't what it was many years ago, but it's strong and powerful and mostly gets the job done, and she moves rather than really dances. But her skills as a performer, honed over five decades, and her genuineness and vulnerability make these shortcomings seem relatively unimportant."

Proclaiming Minnelli "extremely fascinating to watch," Matt Windman of New York City Theater gives 2 and a half out of four stars: "[I]s Liza the toast or the train wreck of Broadway? She’s kind of both. At Wednesday’s opening night performance, not only did Act One and Act Two feel like completely different shows, they also displayed different versions of Liza. Act One was pretty problematic. In between forced, mostly spoke-through performances of 'Maybe This Time' and 'Cabaret,' Liza appeared like a marionette on strings on the verge of falling down. In between songs, she panted desperately for breath and her hands shook. We couldn’t understand a single lyric she uttered in any song. But Act Two was fantastic. For the most part, Minnelli reconstructed the 1948 cabaret act of vocal arranger and actress Kay Thompson, who was her godmother. Though it probably helped that a male chorus literally provided shoulders to lean on, Minnelli’s tribute to Thompson was well focused and tight."

As noted above, I'll continue to add whatever other key critics have to say regarding Liza's At The Palace...! as I see them. But given what those above have already stated, I'm thrilled that I'll have the honor of basking in her presence yet again come Saturday evening.

UPDATE (12.04.08, 4:37 p.m. EST): Labeling the show "Kinda fabulous," Variety's David Rooney heaps praise on the icon: "[W]hat makes Minnelli a great entertainer when she’s firing on all cylinders is how hard she works for the audience’s love. And how much she clearly thrives on it. In an age in which so many female concert performers are overproduced automatons, deigning to be worshipped by their fans, Minnelli’s emotional give-and-take makes her a disarming relic. Part of the unique thrill of watching her strut through 'New York, New York' in New York is the knowledge she represents an era of entertainment that’s all but gone."

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 09 December, 2008, Blogger Interval Drinks said...

Hi Steve,

musicOMH were there! Our Liza review is here:


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