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Liza Minnelli hits high notes as a seated balladier and comedian at 68

Liza Minnelli graced Davies Symphony Hall Friday night for one night only, performing some classics and then more quirky and undiscovered ballads, neh even once forbidden. Her song choices and self-effacing humor endeared her even further with the San Francisco audience of all ages so clearly bonded to the iconic individualist and personality; and loving this Emmy, Oscar and Tony winner and sexy, quirky actress unconditionally. Billy Stritch the jazz pianist lent his charm and grace and sang a duet.

Liza Minnelli Just Liza Tour in SF brings out the sparkle in fans Kevin and Kenneth
Liza Minnelli Just Liza Tour in SF brings out the sparkle in fans Kevin and Kenneth
Cindy Warner
Liza Minnelli visited Davies Symphony Hall on her Just Liza tour
Rick Day

I Can’t Give You Anything But Love

The audience loved her and often rose to its sequined, peacockian feet during the hour and a half performance with her long-time loves, a septet including her jazz pianist Billy Stritch who highlighted the show with a gentle and loving duet. Liza with a Z sounded the most in form and appropriate in such quieter and gentler numbers that would turn poignant. However as the life of the party she strained comedically to raise the roof with her show stopper cabaret numbers.

Related: Chita Rivera celebrates 80th birthday at Bay Area Cabaret

She would simultaneously making light of her age at 68 by lugging around an enormous director’s chair to sit in yet turning childlike and girlish in the hands of her long time love and pianist Billy. This was not a dancing cabaret show, it was seated but full of gestures and vogueing and mugging. She was herself, Liza with a Z, singing her own song.

The order of the American songbook numbers felt as telling of her never-say-die, show-must-go-on spirit as one who was born to the stage, inheriting it, the legacy. She sang a song for which 40 years ago she said, one would have one’s passport taken away or one would be beaten for, about unrequited love by a man who still lived with his mother and asked what is the measure of a man. Liza seemed to have a protective, nurturing and maternal tone as she seemed to comfort and empower the character by her choice of the following song “Maybe This Time”. She made the loneliness and idealization of unrequited love a universal if not bonding experience crossing gender and time. She also made a statement about the nature of love and marriage with another Charles Aznavour buried treasure, “You’ve Let Yourself Go”.

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Comic relief ensued with “Ring Them Bells” and she built up to the climax of the show with “Cabaret” and “New York, New York”.

San Francisco seems to be graced with the presence of shows by divas who still kick up their cabaret heels in spirit, having hosted 80 year old Chita Rivera at Bay Area Cabaret recently and Hotel Nikko hosting Joan Collins for two nights, April 10 and 11.

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For more stories by this writer check out CBS San Francisco's website under Eye on the Bay, San Francisco arts & culture "Best Of"; and San Francisco Arts & Culture on Subscribe by hitting the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of this article. (America's Cup SF photos and links)

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