S’ Wonderful, S ‘Marvelous, “S’ Simply Liza”
At The Theatre with Audrey Linden
Liza Minnelli showed the crowd-filled Walt Disney Hall that she still has “it”. Despite hip and knee surgery, Liza Minnelli is still a fine entertainer who delivers songs with an electrifying emotional impact. She uses every part of her body to energetically act her songs. She was dancing in her director’s chair, kicking her legs and waving her arms. That vital energy was not about to be contained for this show biz icon!
I have never seen the Walt Disney Concert Hall so packed. And, it was packed with an audience that simply loved “Simply Liza”. She could do no wrong last Tuesday. She got a standing ovation as she came on stage, another in the middle of her act, and also at the end. At the opening notes of her signature song, “Cabaret”, Liza got tumultuous applause as she did for the opening notes of “New York, New York” before she sang.
Liza came on stage in black patent loafers, an off the shoulder matte black top over black velvet slacks with a shock of bright red in a long scarf around her neck. She quickly had Billy Stritch help her remove the long scarf which was hampering her. She introduced the very talented Billy Stritch, her accompanist and musical director, Chip Wilson on bass, Brian Brake on drums, Bill Hayes on percussion, Ross Konikoff and Dave Trigg on trumpet, and Dan Willis on reeds. These musicians have been with Liza for quite a while and clearly they are “family”.
Her opening number, “Teach Me Tonight” ended in a strong belt, after which Liiza segued into a soft and breathy version of Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay”. She had us in the palm of her hand. Liza sat in her director’s chair and burst into a witty rendition of a song written for her, “Liza with a Z”. In “What Did I Have”, Liza reminded us, “I’m just a victim of time, obsolete in my prime, outclassed by my past. But she proved that she is neither obsolete nor outclassed as the audience wildly applauded. She did a beautiful acting job in a Charles Aznavor song, “You’ve Let Yourself Go”. His songs tell stories as one written over 40 years ago, “What Makes A Man, A Man? It was such a moving song and an incredible acting piece with Brechtian overtones. It was hard to believe this song was written over 40 years ago as it is so meaningful today. In “Maybe This Time” Liza literally kicked up her heels and danced while sitting in her chair. She was electrifying. Even sitting! The intensity with which Liza sang “Cabaret” made it seem as if she were singing the song for the very first time. It was fresh and had different phrasing.
We got a treat as Liza invited her accompanist and musical director, the incomparable Billy Stritch sing, “No Moon At All”. This gifted musician also sings so well. His jazzy rendition was an effortless and smooth interpretation. She did a duet with Billy in “Anything But Love” and matched his drawn out notes. She acted a wonderful Kander and Ebb song I had never heard before, which was a fun character piece. She wore glitzy, sparkling eye glasses as Shirley Divine in “Ring Them Bells”. That delightful song-story brought the house down. Another song I had not heard was “”You Fascinate Me So”. A song which reminisced about the old Hollywood days when her mother was in her heyday was “On Such a Night as This” in which she sang a line about “Judy Garland”.
Liza needed some water to finish “New York, New York” as she turned to the audience said, “I want to sing this good for you,” “Come on give me a break.” And, of course the audience did just that. She drank water from her black mug and Billy Stritch guided her to her place in the song and like a pro, Liza with a Z picked up where she had left off and belted the ending to another glorious standing ovation. She thanked the audience and introduced Michael Feinstein who was sitting in the first row and also had composer and lyricists, Marilyn and Allen Bergman stand up. This gal proved she is ever the consummate actress, singer, and entertainer extraordinaire. Ms. Minnelli held us in her hands and did no let go of us until the very last note. Talk about showmanship!
The Songbook series at the Walt Disney Concert Hall continues Saturday, April 26th with Cheyenne Jackson and “Music of the Mad Men Era” with special guests Jane Lynch and Rebecca Romijn, and musical director, Ben Toth. Those who follow the Songbook series will want tickets for this evening.
Upcoming Songbook shows will be Audra Mc Donald singing songs from her latest recording, “Go Back Home” December 2nd, 2014 and social justice activist, song writer and singer, Arlo Guthrie April 16, 2015, followed by Grammy winning singer-song writer, Michael Mc Donald May 3rd, 2015. These events fill up so book your reservations soon.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. Improv Comedy starts March 31 for 7 Mondays at 6:45-9:15 P M and is $105. Her On Camera Commercial Class starts April 3rd and is $105 for 7 Thursdays from 6:45 to 9:15 P M. To register, call 310-285-6850 M-F 8:30 A M to 3:30 P M and get a pin # for on line enrollment. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. For more information, contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org