If you can manage to put aside any innate low tolerance you may have for overt show business narcissism and Vegas-style overstatement, Liza's at the Palace truly is a triumphant comeback for Ms. Minnelli. If she's no longer everything she was in her heyday (and who is?), and if she has to take long pauses after vigorous dance numbers for deep gulps of air, she's nonetheless far more on top of her game than she was in her 1999 concert, Minnelli on Minnelli, in which she was physically overweight and vocally shot, cheating out on high notes that were gone, seeming never to return. But she comes by her show business narcissism honestly as it was clearly preceded by some kind of show business epiphany about the ravages of indulgence (You think? Somehow it's always news to the afflicted celebrities) and in her twice-extended current engagement she's slimmed down and evidencing a vocal recovery that is, if not 100%, appropriate enough for her age (the notes aren't all back without some effort, but they are, at least, back). And speaking of her age, she looks great too.
Most of the evening's contents amount to an unexceptional choice of some exceptional songs, a number of which she's been associated with for years (most by Kander and Ebb) and a longish act two medley-slash-profile of songs by—and other songs that became likewise signatures for—one of her mentors, arranger-coach-performer Kay Thompson. And Ms. Minnelli delivers them variously, with and without her backup "boys," though always with the top-notch aid of musical director Billy Stritch and his orchestra. (There's but one conspicuous miscalculation: the inclusion of the Styne-Comden-Green patter number "If You Hadn't, But You Did"; Liza simply hasn't got mastery of the high-speed diction required to pull it off.)
But in a way, the evening is less about its contents than the comeback itself, the tone set early with a song written for the occasion (and layered with multiple meaning) called "I Will Never Leave You" (Billy Stritch-Johnny Rodgers-Brian Lane Green): it's a song for, and an evening about, someone who has found the determination to clean up her act (in all senses) and survive, with her star wattage intact. And underneath the narcissism and the overstatement, that's the genuine, glowing kernel at the center of the show, and I am surprised as I can be to tell you that it's really quite moving.
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