There are few things more embarrassing than telling a theater colleague you’ve never seen Liza Minnelli perform live on a stage. It’s akin to telling someone you’ve never ingested food. Sure, I know her film work, which I am in tremendous admiration of (especially this, one of the great movies of all time). But the reverence to Liza (with a Z, not Lisa with an “S”) was never truly justified to me…until Dec. 3, the opening night of her new musical revue, Liza’s at the Palace… (playing until Dec. 28 at Broadway’s Palace Theatre, and a fantastic holiday present for that special show queen someone).
At a fighting trim 62 years old, she’s the same Halston-attired pixie we remember, and yes, she still sounds like this South Park character in terms of diction. Try to imagine her saying “Champs Elysees”, as she does once in this show. [Stifling giggles.] But for two hours and 20 minutes, tearing into both her own songbook and that of her beloved godmother Kay Thompson (who also authored the Eloise children’s book series), she lifts all 1,700+ seats in the venue into the rafters, even while sitting. (“Remember when I used to sit during the second act?”, she quips, “now I sit during the first…I’m old!”)
Nobody knows Liza’s camp value better than Liza herself, which is why we can’t help but adore her (catcalls of “I love you, Liza!” occurred at least three times on opening night). When she breathlessly (literally) bellowed “Cabaret”, she took a cheeky, audience-winking pause after the line “that’s what comes from too much pills and liquor.” And her signature double takes (which I’d only observed on celluloid and TV, one must remember) are still sharp, especially when mentioning husbands of the past (even she knows the last one was high comedy to us all).
By the time she capped the evening with a gentle, crowd-cradling version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” seemingly done on the spry, yours truly had eyes as wet as Liza’s hair, tamped down by the sheer energy she exuded to the starry audience members (Shirley MacLaine, Mary-Louise Parker, Cheyenne Jackson and Sandra Bernhard, among them), and despite that generous mix, I think one thing could mutually be agreed upon: We were all there to Love Liza.
Note: The Footlights will be on hiatus indefinitely, but the ghostlight is on…