Minnelli opens at Palace Theater

RUSSELL CROWE is still working on losing the 50 pounds he gained when he co-starred with Leonardo Di Caprio in the Ridley Scott film “Body of Lies.” In February, the Down Under star will begin filming “Nottingham” under Ridley’s direction — a different look at the Robin Hood legend. Crowe will play two roles — that of the heroic Robin and also the Sheriff of Nottingham. He is practicing on his Australian farm with a longbow. Said Crowe: “There’s no point in making a second best Robin Hood film. We have to do it with the thought in mind that we’ve got the chance of making the best Robin Hood movie ever.”

WILL YOU feel disillusioned if I say that Keith Richards, the 64-year-old Rolling Stone, might be releasing an easy listening album to include the Harold Arlen-Judy Garland’s classic “Over the Rainbow” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You,” Fats Domino’s “Blue Monday” and the Jerry Lee Lewis classic, “She Still Comes Around.” After more than 20 of such never-before-released songs were leaked onto the Internet, Keith started mulling such a giant step. It’ll be great if it happens though diehard Stone fans may throw up.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT, ONE of the greatest women to perform in that second “best trade” — Liza Minnelli — opened at the legendary Palace Theater on old Broadway, for a three-week stint. Liza had a great triumph at the Palace back in 1999, in a show called “Minnelli on Minnelli” which saluted her brilliant father, movie director Vincente Minnelli. This time around she’s celebrating herself and her godmother, the remarkable singer-dancer-writer Kay Thompson, who is probably best known as the author of the “Eloise” books. (During her years at MGM, Kay coached a lot of the talent, but her style rubbed off most on Miss Garland, who appropriated many dramatic Thompson gestures.) It will be thrilling (and nerve-wracking) as it always is, to sit in the audience and watch Liza. Especially at the Palace. After her own success there, she faltered and regained herself, several times. In the nine years since “Minnelli on Minnelli,” she has lived a thousand lives, but she has endured, with a remarkable amount of her dignity intact. This is a feat in itself, because Liza, like so many of us, was often her own worst enemy. Aside from her talent (Frank Sinatra once said he thought Liza was even more gifted than her mother!), Liza has in double doses what her mom, Judy Garland, couldn’t sustain — real discipline. Liza, after hip and knee replacements, still takes dancing lessons every day. Liza, after damage to her throat during an operation to remove some nodules, takes singing lessons every day. When Liza glances twice at a drink, she checks into a rehab center to avoid disaster. Liza, now 62, has outlived her mother by 15 years. And it hasn’t been luck, but determination. Many, many years ago, Liza altered the famous lyric from “Cabaret.” In the movie, for which she won an Oscar, Liza sings it as Kander and Ebb intended: “…and when I go, I’m goin’ like Elsie!” (Elsie, died from “too much pills and liquor,” but, life was still a cabaret.) In concert, however, Liza sings, “and I’m NOT goin’ like Elsie!” The audience always goes mad, because no matter what her travails, Liza has kept her promise to them. She hasn’t ended up like Elsie. Or like Mama. Recently, Liza, who is usually loath to draw comparisons between herself and her mythic mom, did contrast their musical choices, saying that she, Liza, preferred more basically optimistic material, while Judy’s choices — certainly in her later years — tended toward the dramatically tragic. Liza has stepped into the light, and held onto to hope countless times. She’ll do it again at the Palace.

P.S. IF YOU want a dazzling blast of early Liza, in all her fresh-voiced glory, pick up “Liza Minnelli: The Complete A& M Recordings.” The two-CD set contains her entire A&M catalog, from 1968 to ’72, including her great “Live at the Olympia in Paris” concert.

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