The one where Cabaret came alive?
It’s a difficult one, because as Liza Minnelli declared to the audience sat under ponchos in the siling rain, “I better hit that note or it’ll be ‘off with her head!” she should have been beheaded some sixty times. The legend often sang every note other than the one intended and screeched her way through the songs that had made her the icon we all know.
But bizarrely as someone who is most critical of these performance flaws, it didn’t matter. As I sat with beads of rain water dripping from the peak of my emergency poncho… the people in the courtyard surroundings of the palace of Henry VIII were her to see the legend, the daughter of Garland, the girl who married a man as crazy as herself. The concert for most was the opportunity to say “I saw Liza Minnelli perform” as in reality the opportunity would probably never arise again.
Her song about the spelling of her name… “that’s how you spell Minnelli” drew woops of joy from the audience of faithful fans, and entertained those who were new to her music. Although when she took the stage for Cabaret, and Maybe this time… despite the strain to reach the money notes, it was clear that audience were all on the same page and taking in every moment of the musical star.
With anecdotes of her time on the stage, including a quick characterisation of the time she stepped in to play Roxie Hart to an unknowing audience in Chicago in 1975 the audience hang on ever word. What’s more surprising is the girl who proclaims “I keep bustin’ stuff” is even on the stage before us at all. After two hip replacements and a recent knee injury, Minnelli struggles to drag her chair into position and ill fitting trousers see her hoist her waistline at every given opportunity.
What is interesting about this critique is that Minnelli manages to redefine the rules. Whereas it would be easy to slate the performance it simply wasn’t about that. Legends are not often created in an industry that is so densely populated by new artists every day. Despite the rain and pitchy performance, the audience took comfort and enjoyment to see a woman whom as soon as she entered the stage left her age in the wings and did what she has known all her life… put on a show and perform.