Liza’s at the Palace… @ Palace Theater, New York

cast list
Liza Minnelli, Corts Alexander, Jim Caruso, Tiger Martina, Johnny Rodgers

directed by
Ron Lewis
If there was anyone out there who thought Liza Minnelli was all but buried, a washed-up victim of booze and pills, what’s happening on a nearly-nightly basis at Times Square’s Palace Theatre is somewhat of a resurrection.

Though she may stray from the Big Apple, there’s no keeping her away. In case you haven’t heard, Liza’s back in town, pounding the city streets once again with her vagabond shoes.

Her voice isn’t what it used to be, and neither is her dancing, but she’s still in fine form, occasionally quite extraordinary.
What she lacks in vocal chops, however, she makes up for in charisma. If there’s anyone who’s raring for a full-fledged comeback it’s Liza, who here has the stamina of a heavyweight champ and the charisma of a woman half her age (Liza’s now 62 years old). By the end of the night, the doe-eyed diva is drenched in sweat.

As far as the musical selections go, Liza delivers the expected hits from her film appearances – Maybe This Time; Cabaret; And The World Goes ‘Round; and New York, New York – plus a tribute to her legendary mother Judy Garland, who also performed on the same legendary stage (the Palace Medley), and several of her personal favorites (What Makes A Man A Man, Mammy, and others). The second half of the show is mostly devoted to her godmother, Kay Thompson, who made a name for herself as a legendary M-G-M composer, arranger, and actress, later authoring the Eloise children’s books.

Recounting stories of Thompson and her famous nightclub act with the Williams Brothers, Minnelli seems at ease in the old-school song-and-dance vernacular that comes with inhabiting the spirit of her late mentor. Minnelli, after all, is one of the last of the vaudeville tradition, able to hoof and belt like the old pros. She never successfully made it in the pop music scene (her 1989 crossover Results album, produced by the Pet Shop Boys, was a flop), but it’s of little import. Liza’s the best at what she does.

Director Ron Lewis has attempted to capture the original choreography of Thompson’s act (no recorded footage of which remains) through photographs from the period. Despite the fact that her male back-up dancers are mostly over forty, their nimble support is nonetheless exuberant and entirely winning, each providing accomplished vocals, especially in their sans-Liza version of Gershwin’s Liza (All The Clouds’ll Roll Away).

On the whole, Liza seems at ease in acknowledging her personal struggles while keeping the focus on what’s really important to her – namely, singing her sequins off. It’s refreshing to hear her joking around, telling stories about the numerous pinnacles of her career. In the second act, she recalls the day she returned home to find Thompson had redone her bedroom. The room was stripped of furniture besides for surprises behind three closet doors. Liza, wondering what’s behind them, conjectures, “my first three husbands?”

On the night that I went, as soon as Liza had finished her Judy-channeling rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, no sooner had we been expelled from the theatre doors than we’d been met by the first New York City snow of the season. It’s the kind of movie-magic coincidence that only happens in New York. But if it’s a wintry wonderland outside these days, something distinctly hot is happening on the stage of the Palace, making it all the more imperative that Liza be paid attention.

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