Executive producer, Phil Ramone and Liza Minnelli. Choreographed by Susan Stroman. Directed for television by Louis J. Horvitz.
Fans of Liza Minnelli have long despaired that neither Hollywood nor Broadway has been very successful at finding appropriate material for this multitalented performer. Watching her new special “Liza Minnelli Live! From Radio City Music Hall,” one realizes Liza herself hasn’t had much better luck.
Minnelli gives every number everything she’s got, but only about half of them in this outing are worthy of such attention. Solid show tunes and standards are, unfortunately, intermixed with banal material, which seems all the more weak given her all-stops-out presentation.
The special was filmed in l99l at Radio City, where Liza’s filmmaker father once served as art director. As a first-act finale, she shows a series of his costume sketches from the period. The gesture makes for an enjoyable and not overly sentimental tribute, but unfortunately, the song that accompanies these visuals is neither memorable nor particularly appropriate.
Minnelli proves time and again how well she can turn a song into a mini-piece of theater. In Kander and Ebb’s “Sorry I Asked,” which is sung by a woman who has just learned her husband is having an affair, she beautifully conveys the character’s vulnerability.
Liza belts out “Some People” from “Gypsy” with great style, and offers a sultry rendition of “Our Love is Here to Stay.” But the individual songs have little or no connection to one another, and as a result there are too many jolting shifts in mood. Along with the uneven quality of the material, this makes the show a disappointing vehicle for an underutilized talent.