By Don Heckman
Los Angeles. Liza Minnelli’s performance at Disney Hall Tuesday night was dramatically different from her most recent previous Southland appearance at the Hollywood Bowl in August of 2012.
Reviewing that show, I wrote that “it was her convincing dramatic abilities as well as her ever-dependable ability to tell a story, rather than her undependable vocalizing, that carried her through the show.”
This time out, however, Minnelli was at her best in every aspect, including her richly interpretive singing, while delivering a warmly engaging performance that was understandably greeted with responsive enthusiasm by the overflow crowd at Disney. Although she clearly did not demonstrate the dancing skills that have been a strong element of past performances, she nonetheless moved with the elegant stage mastery that has been so present in earlier appearances.
Backed by a sterling seven piece band led by pianist/composer/singer Billy Stritch, Minnelli offered an hour and a half program of songs stretching across her long, impressive career. The range of selections was far reaching – from an opening “Teach Me Tonight” and a definitive “Liza With a Z” to “Come to the Cabaret” and “New York, New York.” Add to that a pair of Charles Aznavour songs and such standard classics as “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” “Maybe This Time,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” (done as a superb duet with Stritch) and “Every Time We Say Goodbye.”
Good songs, all of them. But what really made this evening so captivating was the way Minnelli brought all of them vividly to life. Once again, her interpretations were driven by her gripping musical story telling. Yes, there were a few times in which she pushed her voice to its limits. But more often than not, her performance recalled the stunning work that has earned Minnelli – over the past decades – Grammy, Tony, Golden Globe and Oscar awards.
And let’s not overlook the highly supportive contributions of her extraordinary musicians, as well as the piano playing, singing, musical partnership and whimsical humor provided by Stritch.
Call it another Minnelli performance to remember. One that was eminently listenable. And one that solidly affirmed Minnelli’s still potent skills as one of the music and dramatic world’s incomparable entertainers.