Liza Minnelli kicked off a fall tour in the Garden State at Morristown’s refurbished Community Theater. The singer looked great, boasting the loss of 45 pounds and proudly strutting in a smart and sparkling off-the- shoulder Casey Paul design, topped by a glittering head piece. And she was in great voice, retaining the incandescent punch and verve that has become her trademark.
Minnelli began on secure ground, dotting her repertoire with songs she belted out in her acclaimed Winter Garden run a quarter of a century ago: “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Maybe This Time” and the signature tune from her Oscar-winning “Cabaret.”
She still commands the powerhouse drive that has long marked her career, but sat down midway through her act.
Minnelli, the sultry chanteuse, harbored restraint with some comforting evergreens. Beautifully nuanced readings of “My Ship,” “The Man I Love” and “He’s Funny That Way” reminded the listener of her gift for torchy nuance.
Second half of the program was an affectionate tribute to Minnelli’s godmother, Kay Thompson, the legendary night club entertainer who also penned the popular Eloise books, inspired by little Liza’s adventures at Gotham’s Plaza Hotel.
As an entertainer, Thompson, assisted by the Williams brothers (including a young Andy), was a popular figure on the club circuit. Minnelli, supported by a quartet of young men, recreated highlights from Thompson’s act with a rousing “Jubilee Time” and a sultry “Basin Street Blues.” Tribute peaked with “Clap Yo’ Hands,” a Thompson rouser from the film “Funny Face.”
“I Love a Violin” appeared to take the wind out of the 61-year-old entertainer, who took a break as the gents offered the Thompson arrangement of the Gershwins’ “Liza,” a sequence subsequently cut from the 1946 tuner “Ziegfeld Follies.” The song of course, served director Vincente Minnelli and MGM star Judy Garland as their daughter’s moniker.
The singer wound up with her trademark nod to the city that never sleeps, “New York, New York.” Responding to a standing ovation, Minnelli bid farewell to a capacity aud with an a capella offering of “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
She praised the refurbished Community Theater, a former movie house and concert venue with great acoustics, that now boasts a new stage, upgraded lighting and sound booth.
Subsequent tour dates include Greenvale (Oct. 13), Baltimore(Oct. 27) and Ft. Myers, Fla. (Oct. 28).