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"Liza's at the Palace...", with Liza Minnelli, Opening Night at the Palace Theatre
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"Liza's at the Palace...", with Liza Minnelli, Opening Night at the Palace Theatre

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Liza’s at the Palace

Starring: Liza Minnelli

Directed and Choreographed by Ron Lewis
Featuring: Johnny Rodgers, Cortés Alexander,
Jim Caruso, Tiger Martina

At the
Palace Theatre
Broadway and 47th Street

Executive Producer: Gary Labriola
Scenic Design: Ray Klausen
Lighting Design: Matt Berman
Sound Design: Matt Kraus
Technical Supervisor: Fred Gallo
Musical Producer: Phil Ramone
Vocal Arrangements: Kay Thompson & Billy Stritch
Music Supervisor: Billy Stritch
General Manager: Niko Companies, Ltd.
Press: Cromarty & Co.
Conductor/Drummer: Michael Berkowitz
Additional Material: David Zippel

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 3, 2008

What could be more gripping than seeing a Playbill for Judy Garland’s Palace show in the glass case at intermission, then returning for Judy’s daughter, the incomparable cabaret crooner, Liza Minnelli, to introduce a tribute to Kay Thompson, Liza’s godmother, and very dear friend of Liza and Judy. Liza Minnelli has always been a larger than life presence, when she appears on any stage (Two years ago Ms. Minnelli spoke at the Career Transition for Dancers Gala). But, she always seemed a little stretched; “harried” might be a good term. That’s what Comebacks are for, and tonight Liza made her Comeback, at no less a venue than New York City’s Palace Theatre! And, what a Comeback it was!

Ms. Minnelli was accompanied by her pianist, friend, and Musical Supervisor, Music Arranger, Billy Stritch, as well as Michael Berkowitz, and his Orchestra. As the curtain opened, Ms. Minnelli was in the first of three elegantly sexy costumes (white, black, then red), arm held high defiantly, with courage and soul. This was Opening Night, and the red carpet had been filled with colleagues and luminaries, such as Tommy Tune and Alan Cumming. The first half of the show included greats, like “I Would Never Leave You” (Billy Stritch, Johnny Rodgers, Brian Lane Green), “What Makes a Man a Man?” (Charles Aznavour), “Palace Medley”: “Shine on Harvest Moon”…”My Man”…, and “Cabaret” (John Kander and Fred Ebb). Ms. Minnelli paid tribute to her mother’s show at the Palace, and, of course, to her mother in numerable adoring comments.

As this was Liza’s newest Comeback, she treated the audience like a friend on the phone, comic asides, faux gunshot to an invisible ex-lover (as she re-created Bob Fosse’s Chicago), an embrace of an armchair for her weary legs with a confidence that she can’t wait till the second act. Yet, halfway into the first act, it was clear that Ms. Minnelli was going to give us everything she’s got, and then more. She perspired, she coughed, she shook out her hair, but she kept singing and prancing and sharing anecdotes, tributes, and memories. When she ended the first Act with “Cabaret”, I thought of Alan Cumming in the crowd, and wondered if he’d jump onstage, but of course that was part of the imaginary whirl that Ms. Minnelli inspired. In fact, inspiration was the operative word, as Ms. Minnelli had overcome so many physical, emotional, tragic, and marital catastrophes. And, speaking of marital, one comment to the effect of “at that time I was divorcing someone, don’t remember who” worked to further endear her to her fans, and these were vocal fans. Some called out “We love you, Liza”, with Ms. Minnelli returning the affection. It seemed that if Ms. Minnelli had chosen to literally sit through the remainder of the show, she’d still be lauded and loved, but, no, Ms. Minnelli went round and round , like the World, in the Act II opening number.

Act II was a personal tribute to Kay Thompson, author of the Eloise books for children, who was Ms. Minnelli’s godmother, and with whom Ms. Minnelli lived until Ms. Thompson passed away in 1998, at the age of 89. Ms. Thompson was also an early radio vocalist, vocal coach and arranger (to stars such as Sinatra and Garland), nightclub chanteuse (with Andy Williams and his brothers, song and dance routines), film and recording artist. Ms. Thompson lived at the Plaza and collaborated with Hillary Knight, illustrator, on the Eloise series, perhaps about her own childhood, or perhaps about Ms. Minnelli’s childhood romps. For this song and dance tribute, more costumes were showcased, as were four men of renowned talent: Johnny Rodgers, Cortés Alexander, Jim Caruso, and Tiger Martina. Now the energy and electricity were flying, with Ms. Minnelli camping it up, fooling around, but all with well choreographed pizzazz. Kay Thompson had written both music and lyrics for “Hello, Hello”, “Jubilee Time”, and “I Love a Violin”, all showcased tonight in sparkling, bubbling, smooth tap-jazz. All four male dancers were exceptionally entertaining, full of frivolity, but tightly timed in steps. Soon Billy Stritch jumped in, adding vivacious vocals.

Ms. Minnelli portrayed Kay Thompson as sophisticated, silky, divine, and again we were inspired, by learning, first-hand, about such a woman of class, talent, versatility, and devotion. When Ms. Minnelli appeared in a brief black costume, then a red, way off-shoulder outfit, always gleaming and sparkling, just like her smile, you just knew her Comeback was sealed for success. Ms. Minnelli’s voice, the focus of her skill, was clear, hitting the high notes, keeping track of endless refrains, and dancing about, as well. This was the dance of a seasoned, mature performer, and there was no need to be a Rockette. Rather, Ms. Minnelli was a Star. Kudos to Liza Minnelli, Billy Stritch, Michael Berkowitz, and Ron Lewis, who directed and choreographed this luscious extravaganza.

Liza Minnelli
Courtesy of Eric Antoniou

Liza Minnelli
Courtesy of Eric Antoniou

Liza Minnelli & Cortes Alexander
Standing L-R: Tiger Martina, Jim Caruso & Johnny Rodgers
Courtesy of Bill Westmoreland

James Lipton
Arrives at The Palace
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Mario Cantone
Arrives at the Palace
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Alan Cumming
Arrives at the Palace
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Tommy Tune
Arrives at the Palace
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Randie Levine-Miller
Arrives at the Palace
Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at