Liza Minnelli played the Hollywood Bowl this weekend, and the incessant gigglers in the audience were clearly nervous about which Minnelli was going to show up.
Would it be the one whose latest Broadway outing, Lizas at the Palace, won a Tony or the erratic Minnelli of Minnelli on Minnelli, the show in honor of her director father, Vincente Minnelli, in which she tried to make another one of her comebacks before she was theatrically fit?
The answer turned out to be both.
This two-night engagement, straightforwardly titled An Evening With Liza Minnelli and featuring pianist and musical director Billy Stritch, a sumptuous-sounding orchestra conducted by drummer Mike Berkowitz and a heat wave that had Minnelli worried she might wilt, flaunted some of the best and the worst of its inimitable star.
Her belters voice was unreliable on Friday night, booming one moment then reduced to a croak the next. Her acting had a bizarre, otherworldly quality, as though she were tuning into a subtext that only she could comprehend. There was a dithering aspect to her stage presence, with her signature anxious laugh cropping up when it seemed least called for. Her dancing was curtailed to a few gestures, such as pounding her fists on her hips or turning her back in dramatic flourishes. And her stamina was weakened on this hot evening to the point that she resorted to her chair after just a handful of songs.
In short, the only thing that remained intact was her singular genius for being Liza." And that was more than enough to galvanize the vast majority of the Bowl's audience, who cheered her on in the knowledge that this divas act is a two-way street the more audible the adulation, the more likely shell rise to some semblance of her former greatness.