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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Liza With an S--for Star Power at the Greek

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Liza Minnelli was the perfect choice for the Greek Theatre’s 60th anniversary celebration on Friday night. Probably no performer other than her recent on-stage companion and pal Frank Sinatra could have brought out such a star-studded audience to provide tribute to Griffith Park’s concert venue.

Despite the oohs and ahs that were generated by a shoulder-to-shoulder celebrity crowd that ranged from Angela Lansbury and Timothy Dalton to Carol Kane and Ed McMahon, however, there never was any doubt that the principal luminary of the evening was neither the audience nor the theater, but the multi-talented Minnelli.

During the second half of the evening, the singer even encountered a made-to-order situation to demonstrate her show-must-go-on skills as a trouper. Halfway through a loving tribute to her father, director Vincent Minnelli, technical disaster struck when the taped orchestral accompaniment for a video projection describing his career first wavered, then died completely.

For a moment, Minnelli seemed startled, and half-jokingly called for help--first to the wings, then to the sound booth. But none was forthcoming. Turning to her pianist, she asked for an ad lib accompaniment and began to spontaneously fill in with an impromptu--and, as it turned out, quite moving--narration for the video.

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Aside from the technical glitches, this year’s Minnelli program was a full-fledged music and dance production, both more intricately planned and more entertainingly structured than some of her past, song-oriented concerts.

Which is not to say that Minnelli ignored her pure singing abilities. In the opening segment of the evening, she tried a bit of everything: a humorous paean to “Sara Lee,” a stand-up-and-shout rendition of “Some People,” a passionate reading of two Charles Aznavour works, and an eclectic group of love songs.

If her voice occasionally sounded hoarse and stressed, the vocal problems were more than compensated for by the eye-catching impact of her legs. Looking trim and well-conditioned, Minnelli--wearing a short, pleated white skirt that glistened with sparkles--pranced from one side of the stage to the other, never missing an opportunity to flash her gams.

The second half of the evening--the first of three Southland dates for Minnelli--was divided between the tribute to her father and an energetic set of songs and dances performed with a colorfully diverse group of female singer-dancers described as the Demon Divas.

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Despite a too-cute set-up that had them joining her from the audience, the eight talented performers added color and contrast to the show, while providing Minnelli with an opportunity to display her still-impressive dancing skills.


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