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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Palace


  Liza Minelli/PH:Michael Falco

Liza Minnelli has had plenty of comebacks during her long career, not to mention plenty of ups and downs in her personal life. In the star's latest comeback gig, which features an extended tribute to her talented and glamorous godmother Kay Thompson, Minnelli once again proves that she's a consummate performer who will push herself to the limit to satisfy her devoted fans. At times her voice sounds a bit hoarse, and she often gasps for breath between numbers. But even when her 62-year-old body and voice nearly fail her, Liza wills herself to give a full-throttle performance.

She started the show with her signature pose, arm outstretched above her head while silhouetted against a backdrop. Looking fit in a glittery white pantsuit, Minnelli soon showed off her trademark strut and her arsenal of showbizzy, dramatic gestures. Even if she can't dance the way she did in Bob Fosse's Cabaret-36 years ago-she still packs every movement with pizazz.

In the first act Minnelli does a few little-known songs like "I Would Never Leave You" (cowritten by the show's pianist/musical supervisor Billy Stritch) and "What Makes a Man a Man?" (Charles Aznavour's touching ballad about a transvestite). She also does a "Palace Medley" that is a reworked version of the one her mother, Judy Garland, did in her "Two-a-Day" shows at the same theater in 1951. When she wasn't belting, hoofing, or catching her breath, Minnelli served up stories about Garland (a.k.a. "Mama"), who died when Liza was 22, and Thompson, whom she calls her "guardian angel" and "fairy godmother."

Before she got to the Thompson tribute, however, Minnelli closed the first act with a knockout rendition of "Cabaret." She now adds a meaningful pause after the lyric "too much booze and liquor" and emphatically declares that she's "not going like Elsie."

Much of the second is devoted to Thompson, a musical director and vocal coach at MGM who costarred in the movie Funny Face. With help from her veteran director-choreographer Ron Lewis, Stritch, and the excellent 12-man orchestra, Minnelli re-creates the legendary Hollywood nightclub act her godmother did at Ciro's in 1948. It's a slick, fast-paced whirl of singing and dancing that understandably leaves Minnelli breathless. Thompson's polished act featured the Williams brothers (including young Andy), and Minnelli gets great support from Johnny Rodgers, Cortes Alexander, Jim Caruso, and Tiger Martina as the singing siblings. From the men's dapper suits to the vintage choreography, it's a wonderful homage to the largely forgotten Thompson.

It's no wonder Minnelli was pooped by the time she got to the climactic "New York, New York." But the fact that she was sweating and in danger of losing her voice added extra drama: Could she muster the energy and vocal stamina to give the anthem-and the show as a whole-the requisite rousing finale? Yes, she could, and she did. Minnelli lives to perform, and she wouldn't dream of disappointing an audience.




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