Liza at the Beau
The Beau Rivage Theatre crackled with the audience’s anticipation before the lights even went down. When the 6-piece band entered the stage, the audience’s excitement was palpable.
As the music heated up and the spotlight hit the stage right curtain, the audience burst into cheers and applause. A moment later, Liza Minnelli entered the stage, wearing her trademark sequined top, and graciously accepted the adulation.
Opening the Show
Before she could open her mouth to talk or sing, heartfelt shouts of “We love you, Liza!” were heard and obviously appreciated by the legendary star. Liza opened the show with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” earning more shouted accolades. No stranger to interacting with an audience, she ad libbed right back, even mentioning the Beau Rivage Theatre and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The Beau, like so many of the homes and businesses in the area, incurred devastating damage in 2005 when the Mississippi Gulf Coast took the direct hit of Hurricane Katrina. Not lost on Liza, she said to the audience, “You rebuilt this place swell, Biloxi, and the beautiful Beau Rivage!” earning cheers from the locals.
The Beau Rivage has a beautifully understated circular theatre, originally designed for the former resident Cirque de Soleil shows. After Katrina, the theatre was redesigned and rebuilt and is now sheathed in red velvet, from the walls down to the lush red velvet seats – a perfect match for Liza, for whom red is a signature color.
She then sang “Our Love Is Here to Stay” and “Liza with a ‘Z’” in her trademark vocal style, quipping “Do you know how hard it was to learn that? Which is why I learned it when I was 17!”
Liza’s amazing accompanist, Billy Stritch, joined her for a duet of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” His effortless tickling of the ivories perfectly complimented his smooth crooning style.
Liza Showstoppers & Trivia
Liza took a moment to tell a story about her participation in the Broadway show Chicago starring Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera. She relayed the story that Gwen had fallen ill and was to leave the show, but the producers did not know whom to re-cast in her part. Liza told them she wanted to play Gwen’s role of “Roxie Hart.”
Even Kander and Ebb were not sure saying, “No star has ever replaced a star on Broadway. You have to ask Fosse.” Liza did, but Fosse’s response was blunt, “It will look like a publicity stunt.” So Liza had the idea of not telling anyone, just announcing it right before the show in the general announcements. And they did. And the audience did not believe it until Liza walked on the stage in the role of “Roxie Hart.”
After the stroll down memory lane, Liza sang “My Own Best Friend” from Chicago, then wowed the audience with her quintessential showstopper, the title song from Cabaret. Red lighting filled the stage and faded to purple washes interspersed with quick spotlight specials catching Liza in her famous Fosse-infused poses. Interestingly, she is still adding the word “not” to the lyric “I’m (not!) going like Chelsea,” an homage to her recovery from past addictions.
The standing ovation that followed Liza’s full-out “Cabaret” was so long she had to motion for the audience to sit down. She laughed, “The show’s not over yet. There is more.”
And more there was! Liza began a set list consisting of songs from her new album, Confessions. She explained the concept of the album and why there are no “showstoppers” included.
The Best Is Yet to Come
When Liza was approached to do the Confessions album, she was unable to sing the big, belty numbers. “They have to be calm because I’m in bed from knee surgery,” Liza explained. So her accompanist, Billy Stritch, suggested all the songs be centered around love.
Songs from her new album, Confessions, included “You Fascinate Me So,” “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You,” “This Heart of Mine,” and “He’s a Tramp.” For the song, “I Must Have That Man,” she quipped, “Lyrics are pretty, and this is a hell of a poem.” It featured some amazing trumpeting from the band with a jazz arrangement that made you want to sing along. Liza admitted, “As I get older now, I can get dirtier.”
With that, she entered a great, driven performance of “But the World Goes 'Round” that conjured images of Cyd Charisse in a tight green dress slinking toward a smoldering Gene Kelly on his knees. Liza confessed, “What I am most proud of, what thrills me the most, is the songs that have been written for me.” She then began a rousing performance of “New York, New York,” that had the audience clapping along and jumping to their feet in the middle of the song.
She finished this stellar show with a heartfelt performance of “Every Time We Say Good-Bye.” Another standing (and shouting) ovation and a couple of curtain calls ended this wonderful night of singing by the legendary Liza Minnelli at the Beau Rivage.
For my Final Opinion, go to Page 2.