Liza Minnelli’s third one-woman show in a Broadway theater in just ten years, this is not the most polished or flawless of the three, but it may have been the most exciting. Granted, her once-great singing voice has mostly subsided into a dry, Elaine Stritch-like crackle, but Minnelli was always more than her belt voice. If she bluffs her way through most of her singing and dancing, she has more than enough charisma to pull it off, and is perfectly capable of carrying her showcase on personality alone. And something about her very delicacy here brings out a level of passion almost never before seen in her work, just as the same kind of circumstances always seemed to do with her mother.
The songlist consists largely of her standard ‘classic’ repertoire, but she brings out a freshness that makes it almost seem like you were hearing them for the first time, throwing herself into the songs with an almost desperate abandon and reaffirming the validity of the classic show-biz stage persona. Her “He’s Funny That Way” is devastatingly heartfelt, her “My Own Best Friend” is loaded with nuance, and her “I Love a Violin” is gloriously effervescent.
Minnelli saw this production as a tribute to her godmother Kay Thompson, and performs a couple of her signature numbers here. Her rendition of “Jubilee Time” is a superb tribute, not as finely sung as Thompson’s famous original but arguably more dynamic and joyous, and her version of “Clap ‘Yo Hands” is the showstopper to end all showstoppers. Above all else, this show offers a version of her legendary signature song “Cabaret” that is possibly the most intense rendition she has ever given that song.
The music from this show was not recorded live, but Minnelli made a studio recording after the show closed featuring all of the show’s songs, and while her deteriorating vocals may be a bit hard to get used to, her famously devoted fanbase will probably find these performances absolutely thrilling.