Sunday, December 07, 2008

Liza's At The Palace...! (The SOB Review)

Liza's At The Palace...! (The SOB Review) - Palace Theatre, New York, NY

*** (out of ****)

Want to see an honest-to-goodness legendary trouper who feeds off her audience, not only as if it were an intimate gathering, but more importantly, as if they were always destined to be together? Then you can't afford to miss the one and only Liza Minnelli in Liza's At The Palace...!

Sure, much has been written about how this icon doesn't quite hit all the notes the way she used to, or how she occasionally slurs her speech (today it's Liza with a zshee), or how she moves a bit wobbly (no doubt thanks to two new hips and a knee). But I can tell you that I've never seen a performer give it her all -- and then some, and then some more -- quite the way Liza Minnelli does. This Oscar, Tony, Emmy and (special) Grammy winner does it with such enormous heart and humanity, you find yourself pulling for her every step of the way.

With her second act paean to her real-life Godmother Kay Thompson, Ms. Minnelli recreates the "Eloise" writer's nightclub act from days long gone by. Thompson originally performed with the Williams Brothers, but director and choreographer Ron Lewis captures their essence with Cortes Alexander, Jim Caruso, Tiger Martina and Johnny Rodgers in rousing and gleeful, if old-fashioned, spirit. In fact, Billy Stritch and David Zippel's musical stylings filled my head with memories of listening to my grandmother's stereo, as well as those dated television variety shows from the earliest days of my youth. Ms. Minnelli's enthralling show captures this snapshot of another time brilliantly and enthusiastically.

Aside from her self-deprecating stories, including an ultimately bittersweet one involving three closets, there were two points during her performance that left me choked up. The first occurred near the end of the first act when she sang "Cabaret" and uttered a revised line about "going like Elsie." The second came when Ms. Minnelli performed her final encore with a holiday homage to her mother, the late Judy Garland. While I can't give it away, it was a glorious way to send her adoring audience out onto a snowy Broadway on a cherished high note.

Supposedly, they don't do shows like this anymore. But thankfully, Liza Minnelli does.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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