You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Liza’s Back…

On the evidence of "Liza's Back…," the Royal Albert Hall concert show signaling Liza Minnelli's first U.K. appearance since 1995, the 56-year-old newlywed is indeed back, and in fighting form.

With: Liza Minnelli, Dinah Foddrill, David Garcia, Kara Landon, Richard Lewis, Abby Lindenberg, Manwe Sauls-Addison, Brian Thomas, Michelle Suzuki.

“Come on, come through,” Liza Minnelli famously sings of New York City in “New York, New York,” but it’s impossible for an audience these days not to be thinking the exact same sentiments of Minnelli on those sporadic occasions when she now appears live. Blighted by numerous illnesses and addictions that even her mother might have found daunting (when she died in London in 1969, Judy Garland was a decade younger than Liza is now), Minnelli is a singular stage animal whose appearances of late have made one nervous. The ongoing question, simply put: Will she come through?

Well, start spreading the news, as Minnelli’s preferred songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb put it in another context. On the evidence of “Liza’s Back…,” the Royal Albert Hall concert show signaling her first U.K. appearance since 1995, the 56-year-old newlywed is indeed back, and in fighting form. (Hubby David Gest is the evening’s producer-creator and was in abundant evidence in the front row, leading ovation after ovation.)

While some will debate the advisability in PR terms of lip-synching crucial songs during a surprisingly lengthy set, Minnelli is looking good and sounding ready for a creative rebirth.

“Well, here I am,” she told an adoring crowd on opening night of her five-perf gig, the top ticket a hefty $200, and there can have been few among an audience of nearly 4,000 who didn’t find that declarative remark reason enough to sing.

What’s astonishing, in entertainment terms, is how childlike and guileless Minnelli remains, even when the specifics of her life might have turned most people sour.

Instead, taking to the stage in floor-length white mink cloaking a frilly black number underneath, Minnelli announced she was “beating the clock/happy and healthy and steady and ready to rock.”

And that, as if defying the physical odds, was precisely what she went on to prove in a breathless (often literally so) display of theatrics sure to confound any and all cynics — you know who you are — who had come expecting a wake and witnessed instead something approaching a celebration.

After all her much-vaunted hip, knee and other troubles, one certainly expected a more sedate Minnelli than the fevered, questing figure on view who disappeared occasionally toward the back for a slug of Gatorade(!). Barely had she appeared before she was being hoisted aloft by her eight-strong chorus, while numerous costume changes allowed ample view of a newly toned body that kept up with a good-natured rap version of “Liza With a Z” (billed in the song list as “Z-Rap”).

Her rapport with the crowd, meanwhile, redefined a kind of rapture whereby a performer and her fans seemed to be urging each other on, rather as if Minnelli’s road to recovery somehow tallied with her public’s own.

What of the singing? Ah, the million-dollar question, with the British press making much of an issue with Minnelli that dates back in New York at least as far as her Tony-winning turn in “The Act” a quarter-century ago — namely, Liza was present, but was her voice? Or was she miming/lip-synching to an existing track? (One West End producer unconnected to the creative team of “Liza’s Back…” estimated 20% of it was mimed, which more or less tallies with an aud member in the second row who counted four such numbers “sung” to a prerecorded tape.)

The discrepancy was most marked in an eleventh-hour “Cabaret” medley in which a pre-existing “Money” had an altogether different sound from the husky, appealingly textured real-life outpouring of passion with which Minnelli sang “Cabaret” — managing, miraculously, to make her signature song sound more anthemic than ever.

In some odd way, perhaps the debate is something of a non-issue insofar as the “live” moments were so fully, well, lived that their raw immediacy by itself served to raise the roof. (By contrast, Barbra Streisand’s last London concert appearance was distressingly formal and remote.)

And closing the show with an a capella “I’ll Be Seeing You” in honor of the Queen Mother was a stroke of genius. “I’m so deeply sorry for your loss,” Minnelli said, calling the Queen Mum’s demise one “I understand.”

In a stroke, you could feel the Albert Hall understanding Minnelli, too, as a one-of-a-kind creature made for and by the stage whom we thought we had lost — and had, instead, all over again and thrillingly, found.

Liza's Back…

Royal Albert Hall; 3,800 seats; £140 ($200) top

Production: David Gest presents Liza Minnelli in concert. Creative consultants and new material, John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Creative: Choreographer, Brian Thomas; musical conductor, Bill Lavorgna; musical director-arranger, Joey Melotti; associate producer, Steven Benanav; tour director, Dan Parise. Opened, reviewed April 2, 2002; runs through April 7. Running time: 2 HOURS, 35 MIN.

Cast: With: Liza Minnelli, Dinah Foddrill, David Garcia, Kara Landon, Richard Lewis, Abby Lindenberg, Manwe Sauls-Addison, Brian Thomas, Michelle Suzuki.

More Legit

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

  • Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary,

    Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary, 'Hugo Cabret' Musical

    Producers Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page have unveiled Ley Line Entertainment with a Brian Wilson documentary and a “Hugo Cabret” musical in the works. Ley Line said it’s a content development, production, and financing company with projects spanning film, television, stage, and music. Headington financed and produced “The Young Victoria,” “Argo,” “Hugo,” and “World [...]

  • Daniel Radcliffe

    Listen: How Broadway Made Daniel Radcliffe a Better Actor

    Acting onstage has been a regular part of Daniel Radcliffe’s career for more than a decade — and the “Harry Potter” star says there’s a good reason for that: It’s made him better. “It gives me a lot of confidence as an actor, which is not always something that I’ve felt,” Radcliffe said on the [...]

  • The Jungle review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Jungle'

    With the rumbling of semis careening by and the sound of Middle Eastern music in the distance, “The Jungle” aims to vividly immerse audiences into the world of the real-life migrant and refugee camp of the same name. By telling the story of the Jungle’s creation in Calais, France, in 2015, and its eventual destruction [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • 'Network' Review: Bryan Cranston Stars on

    Broadway Review: 'Network' With Bryan Cranston

    The 1976 film “Network” won four Academy Awards, including best original screenplay for writer Paddy Chayefsky, for its blistering portrayal of an American society fueled by greed and bloated on corruption. A haggard Peter Finch took the best actor trophy for his harrowing performance as Howard Beale, a TV newsman who is so disgusted by [...]

  • Faye DunawayVanity Fair Oscar Party, Arrivals,

    Faye Dunaway to Play Katharine Hepburn on Broadway

    Faye Dunaway will return to Broadway to play another acting diva. The Oscar-winner is set to portray Katharine Hepburn in “Tea at Five,” a one-woman play that charts the movie legend’s career over the course of a winding monologue. Dunaway last appeared on Broadway in 1982’s “The Curse of the Aching Heart.” In the 1990s, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content