Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

La Cage aux Folles

August 30, 2009

Liza Minnelli at the Hollywood Bowl
Photo: mine 2009

What can you say about Liza Minnelli in this day and age? At 63, she’s embarking on a tour following a successful run in Liza’s at the Palace… in New York, and this weekend she was at the Hollywood Bowl. I saw Saturday’s performance, and no matter what else it was, it was certainly remarkable. Minnelli is a performer who has an effective shtick and easily-lampooned style, but she doesn’t back down from any of it. She is beyond camp. She revels in those very things that would seem to detract from her image. She approaches the show with a gee-whiz-what-a-surprise stance and clings to gestures from decades ago. Her penchant for name dropping, including that of Michael Jackson, persists unabated. But what would seem to derail much lesser performers, not only work here but make Minnelli all the more endearing to the audience. She's funny and her jokes about ex-husbands and her age really go beyond just being able to laugh at herself in a way. By the time she got around to Every Time We Say Goodbye, her admonition that “we” all did “it” together made perfect sense.

The voice is what you’d expect. Often fractured and with canyons of vibrato at times. But she plays to her strengths with material that is unequivocally hers – “New York, New York”, “Cabaret”, “Maybe this Time.” She is a star from a world of stars that no longer exist and she knows it, making the proceedings all the more enjoyable despite the ravages of time. She careens over the barrier between fearless and foolhardy with abandon offering up Al Jolson’s “Mammy” with an apology that she can't go down on her knees for it as she may have in the past. She also performed "Comme ils disent", a classic Charles Aznavour song, well received by her many gay fans. In the end, though, like most great live performers, Minnelli rises above the rest by maintaining an incredible energy level and communicating with an audience in a way they want and understand. Even with introductions between each number, she keeps the evening up and energized, and most, including myself, walked away more than satisfied. A really enjoyable show from a real living legend.


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