Broadway’s legendary Palace Theatre rolls out its red carpet for the ultimate Queen of Showbiz… with a “Z”
(As seen in HX Magazine, 12/5/08)
THE CITY THAT DOESN'T SLEEP has one more reason not to blink an eye this December – and it’s a damn good one! After nearly a decade, the one and only Liza Minnelli is back on Broadway! Liza’s at the Palace… (recently extended by popular demand) is an extreme work of heart, derived from the show our Lady Liza has been touring with for the past two years. It combines traditional showstoppers with a personal and exciting tribute to Minnelli’s godmother Kay Thompson. Complete with costumes by Halston and a delectable singing/dancing quartet featuring Cortes Alexander, Jim Caruso, Tiger Martina and Johnny Rodgers, this one’s not to be missed! Just before returning to New York, New York, Liza called me from her tour in Italy to talk about her highly-anticipated new show, and to dish on everything from Kay to gay to Cabaret.
Randy Rainbow: We want you in New York already! Are you as excited to be back on Broadway as we are to have you there?
Liza Minnelli: Darling, I cannot tell you how excited I am. I am thrilled to pieces, you know? And especially with a show that means so much to me.
Thank God you've extended. Two weeks wouldn't have been enough to fit us all in.
Aw, thank you. Yeah, we're up to four weeks now!
Now, I don't want to shock you or anything, Liza Minnelli, but you do have a couple of gay fans out there...
[Laughs] No shit, Sherlock!
Well, it's not confirmed but I think that you might.
Right... There's a rumor...
How cognizant of your gay fan base are you when putting together a show like this?
You know, I never really think in terms of a show or of an audience. I think about what stories I want to tell, and then I find the songs that tell those stories. But there is a song in this show that I do... The character is a gay man, a long time ago - when you could still get arrested for being gay! It's beautifully written by Charles Aznavour, and it’s called "What Makes a Man a Man". I think there are so many kids out there who don't realize how far we've come, and that song is something of a reminder. You'll love it.
What inspired the idea to do a tribute to your godmother Kay Thompson?
I just love her so much. She was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. She taught me so many things, and - I don't know- I was missing her.
So you got your director Ron Lewis on the horn…
I was talking first to my dear friend Michael Feinstein, who got me a couple of pieces of hers that I'd never heard. And I remembered seeing her show at Ciro's when I was really, really young - like two years old. But there was no record of her. Nobody ever filmed her with the Williams Brothers. So it was hard. I got the boys together to be the Williams Brothers and we were having a wonderful time, but it needed a director and a choreographer. And it needed someone who I loved and trusted. So I called Ron.
He certainly keeps you on your toes. There’s so much movement in this show! How are you staying in such phenomenal shape?
It's these damn dances! We don't stop moving for a second. Wait'll you see it! You won't believe it! But I'll tell you - to do Ron Lewis choreography... Honey, it's as good as sex!
What do you want your audiences to learn about Kay from this show?
What an influence she was in all areas. From fashion to...I mean she absolutely changed the face of music. You ask anyone who worked with Kay, and they'll tell you they learned the most from her. She was a real underground force, and nobody yet has surpassed her.
In addition to the Thompson material, can we expect to hear all of the Liza essentials?
Oh yeah! I put "Cabaret" in there, and "New York, New York", "Maybe This Time"... You'll get 'em all!
You and your mother Judy Garland have both made historical appearances at the Palace Theatre. What’s the personal significance of now bringing this show to this venue?
Well I never even dreamed that this show would go to this venue. But the way things have unfolded with this particular project has just been extraordinary. The whole idea started as just an album. Then we brought it into performance. And then I thought it would be a great television show. It just evolved so, and now suddenly we're at the Palace! It seems to have a life of its own, and I find that if you just trust in it, it all works out.
You don't often speak about your family onstage, but I understand you get a bit more personal in this show.
I guess it's because this was the era in which I grew up. It's the stuff I remember that Kay taught me, and how it affected me. She knew me and helped me through every major stage of my life since I was a kid.
Minnelli on Minnelli, your last engagement at the Palace, paid homage to your father as this show will to your godmother. Would you ever consider doing such a complete tribute to your mother?
Well everyone else is doing it, so I can't!
True… Even I've done a tribute to your mother.
[Laughs] No, I would never do that. I don't think I need to. To me, that's something you just don't mess around with, you know? She was the best, and you don't try to redo the best.
You've given a lot of support to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS over the years. What's the importance of that organization to you?
Well, I think that we as artists have a responsibility. I mean - I think the world has a responsibility. But because there are so many wonderful theatrical people who attract attention, it's our duty to point out what's going on, and get as much help as we can.
Are there artists today who inspire you or with whom you'd like to work?
There are so many. I love Maroon 5, My Chemical Romance - I just made a record with them. Is it wrong to say "record"? I guess it dates you. Anyway, Michael Buble is terrific... You know, I love all kinds of music. And one of the most exciting things to me is discovering new talent.
When preparing to open a new show like this, does your immense icon status ever make things easier, or only more nerve-racking?
I guess I don't ever think in those terms. I always think: If I were going to see a show, what would I want to see? And you go from there. Then, of course, you find talented people to work with. That's the best. I think my biggest talent is knowing who's more talented than I am! But it's really just the fun of making it better than what you've done before.
"Liza's at The Palace..." now on Broadway through December 28th. For more information, click on lizasatthepalace.com.