2005-02-25 / Community

Liza At Westbury: ‘Something About Me You Might Not Know’

A Wave Review by Les Gardonyi

At the end, when all the standing ovations went into overtime, Liza Minnelli sang an accapella gift to the Music Fair’s audience. You know the song -the one that ends with “I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing…” (an emotional pause from the Broadway diva, and then that final intimate contact with our simultaneous singing of the last word) “… YOU!”

Shouts of “We want you back on Broadway… In a movie… I love you!” brought Lisa Minnelli to the naturally vulnerable state that is the source for both her strength and weakness. She wiped her teary eyes several times and in an act of spontaneity took off her lashes, wiped off the mascara and showed herself to the world as never before - a true survivor. Her self-effacing comical quips of “There’s something about me you might not know… although that does seem surprising!” drew on a lifetime of physical and emotional trysts with former husbands, physical pain and, as her pregnant pause indicated in the midst of one of her many CABARET numbers, “… too much pills and liquor”. The woman, Liza Minnelli, put her self out there, in front of the audience and if it were a mosh pit, we would have caught her gladly. Three costume changes from black to white to black were stylishly accenting her personal saga. The ironic strains of “Our Love Is Here To Stay” countered with a curious ballad “Oh Help Me Sir To London Town” showed off her multi-chromatic reservoir of talents. “I have a hobby of collecting ballads”, she confided. Who knew?

Liza’s band displayed a star-studded coherence of symbiotic timing to the snappy struts of her staccato gesticulations. She introduced her super-talented piano player, Billy Stritch, and her longtime friend and confidant, conductor/drummer Bill Lavorgna, with whom she shared secrets during a time, when her mother, Judy Garland, was “always trying to divorce somebody”. From the audience, Liza also picked out her famous Cabaret-composer, John Kander.

Her guest star, Ben Vereen, gave a phenomenal performance that started in a fancy evening scarf, coat-tails and spats attire. The smooth moves that lured past audiences into the theatrical fantasy worlds of CATS, PIPPIN, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and HAIR, were still effectively mesmerizing the ring-seated audience. Emotional moments were recapped in Ben Vereen’s homage to his mentor, who many decades ago had cajoled Ben, who was then one of the multitudes in the audience, with a microphone to step up to the stage and perform. That man was Sammy Davis Jr. And the rest was Broadway history! Tonight he paid homage to Sammy by performing “Mr. Bojangles” with a special ease that naturally segued into the bold “I’ve Got To Be Me”. Wiping his “whiskers” and “meowing” the introduction to the haunting tunes of “Memories”, was beautifully accented by his gentle voice and slow gaze into the mystically lit stage lights above. His surprise announcement about being the next Wizzard in the hit Broadway play, WICKED, drew lot’s of anticipatory “WOW’s” from the enthusiasticly supportive audience. When he first entered the stage tonight, he commented on his and Liza Minnelli’s “birth”. It was meant to reassert their new lease on life in returning to the stage after overcoming their respective bouts of physical tribulations. In 1992 Ben had barely survived a devastating car accident. Tonight he left the cheering crowd with the philosophical optimism packaged into “I’ve Got A Lot Of Living To Do”, and reminded the audience to “Live life! Live Life! Your life is good!”

Why tell this story in a Memento-like format? Why start at the end of the show and link it back to the beginning? Simply because it was grand from either temporal direction –in fact, it wasn’t time bound whatsoever. The show was a snapshot of an ethereal moment of life’s performance that could only come from the heart.

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