WASHINGTON — You say an ailing Aretha Franklin can’t make your shindig? No problem. Simply enlist Liza Minnelli , and let her wow the audience.

You can do that when you’re the Kennedy Center and the shindig in question is the center’s 12th annual Spring Gala, its chief fundraising vehicle next to the Kennedy Center Honors.

The April 25 affair drew an extra large crowd of Texans, beginning with First Lady Laura Bush and its chairman, Houston tycoon Cappy McGarr. No wonder it raised a record $2.8 million for the center’s educational and artistic programs.

A gaggle of Washington politicos and foreign diplomats was also on hand, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose wife, Alma, is the center’s interim co-chairman Along with Minnelli, who was in surprisingly good voice, entertainers included singers Nancy Wilson and Dianne Reeves, violinist Regina Carter, and two dancers from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra played.