Liza Minnelli bounces back from drug and drink dependence, obesity and brain disease...
Morag Reavley 2003
Showbiz deity Liza Minnelli bounces back from drug and drink dependence, obesity and brain disease with a live recording of her recent Broadway show devised by svengali-esque husband David Gest.
And how. Minnelli opens proceedings in roistering form with a new gem, 'Liza's Back', by Kander and Ebb of Chicago and Cabaret fame. The opening lines say it all: "I've took my bottle of pills and tossed them away. I emptied the booze, went back to AA. Hey, Broadway, Liza's back!"
This is a self-mocking, good-natured parody of the showbiz comeback. How many other stars would be in anything but denial?
It sets the tone for the album. Her singing is suffused by an infectious sense of joy in her enhanced vocal powers, even more textured and boisterous than before, while her audience banter is alternately mischievous and tender. The audience themselves are clearly finely attuned to the show's comic and ironic nuances.
These are most evident in a romp through Liza's classics, invested with new significance. In a raft of songs from Cabaret, Minnelli fully explores the vagaries of showbiz ambitions after 40 up-and-down years. The tale in Cabaret of Elsie-from-Chelsea, who takes too many pills and too much liquor and ends as the happiest corpse you've ever seen, is sung with wry cadences and knowing pauses.
New material includes 'Don't Smoke In Bed', specially penned by Kander and Ebb. This is a smouldering, beautifully controlled farewell, to a partner, to a way of life, that one is not totally able to surrender. 'Something Wonderful', dedicated to Mr. Minnelli, is expansive and refreshingly unsentimental. It, and Liza's between-song comments, suggest that this marriage is not without turbulence, though whatever Gest does for Liza, it's working a treat.
"You either got it, or you've had it", Minnelli throbs on 'Rose's Turn'. On the evidence of this recording, Liza definitely still has it.