Jill’s Jottings: Come On And Hear! Liza Takes Toronto

lizaminnelliTORONTO–Liza came to town Tuesday night, and Toronto lavished her with flowers, standing O’s, gifts, and cheers. I’ve heard Toronto crowds are unusually effusive, but last night’s reception had to be something special. I’ve never attended a show where every single number inspired so many people to their feet.

But it was all deserved. Make no mistake: Liza is back and in many ways better than ever. Yes, her voice cracks at times and can be breathy, but overall it’s rich, and the lady’s got her belt back. And yes, much of the material we’ve heard before, but Liza can make anything feel fresh and new thanks to her singular ability to connect with a crowd. Liza’s always in the moment, never coasting, never bored, always giving and always full of warmth, graciousness and humor. (Liza to an audience member who presented her with a bunch of spring tulips: “Honey! These are expensive! Thank you! But you know, with me all you have to do is show up!”)

And for me, there was another kind of magic last night: the feeling that Liza is a bridge connecting vaudeville and vintage movie musicals (where she’ll always be rooted, thanks to her parents*) to the modern day. Her “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” isn’t an abstract salute to Berlin, it’s the real thing. (And her interpretation brings it charging to life with something so real you can almost imagine what it might have felt like to “want to go to war.”) So’s her “Maybe This Time.”

She had two encores, and could have had 102. The second one (“I’ll Be Seeing You”) she performed acapella, with just one spotlight and the entire crowd standing silently (no coughs!) in the dark. At that point, she’d stashed her shoes on top of the piano and was dressed in glittery “Bob Mackie”-style pants (I want a pair!) and a big black t-shirt with a heart on it. And in that magic moment, she happened to look and sound so much like Judy that you could believe it was Judy if you wanted…which was its whole other thing. There was Liza: Always giving everything she’s got, always herself, always real. I’ve heard that’s how Judy was too on-stage, and I suspect that may have been what helped kill her at such a young age; she gave so much to her craft and to her audiences and maybe not enough to herself. Liza’s come so close to that same fate so many times-and side-stepped that fate so many times-that any performance at all feels like a bit of a miracle. That she happens to be utterly fantastic as well is indeed reason to stand up and cheer.

Here’s the line-up:

  • Teach Me Tonight
  • I’ll Never Leave You Alone
  • If
  • What Makes A Man A Man? (by Charles Aznavour-wow!)
  • I Am My Own Best Friend
  • Maybe This Time
  • He’s Funny That Way
  • Palace Montage
  • Cabaret
  • But The World Goes Round
  • Liza With A “Z”
  • I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby
  • Alexander’s Ragtime Band
  • New York, New York
  • Every Time We Say Good Bye
  • I’ll Be Seeing You
*Note from Michael — She made her movie debut before she was born! If you watch the Garland sequences in ‘Til the Clouds Roll By, they were directed by Vincente Minnelli to disguise his wife’s pregnancy. 

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