Liza with a Z
Unrated; Directed by Bob Fosse; Starring Liza Minnelli
Try to imagine what it was like in 1972. One actress sang, danced, and acted her way to stardom. Though she had already appeared in a couple of movies, she really burst upon the scene in 1972. Her performance that year as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” earned her the Best Actress Academy Award, then later that year she starred in “Liza with a Z,” shown on television, winning four Emmies and a Peabody along the way. She was such a wonderful performer, that I wanted to grow up and be just like her. With the world at her feet, who knew that Liza Minnelli would end up as a punchline?
Liza Minnelli and Bob Fosse, the director of “Cabaret,” had so much fun working together during the making of that film that they decided to work together again. This time, they would show off Liza’s talent on stage; she would sing and dance and act her heart out one night at the Lyceum Theater. With Bob Fosse directing and choreographing, that is exactly what she did. With original music by Kander and Ebb, the composers of the music in “Cabaret,” plus a wide mix of songs from other songwriters, she created one of the most entertaining, one-woman shows seen on TV.
Originally shown on NBC in the fall of 1972, it hasn’t been seen since then. Surprisingly, Liza Minnelli owned the film rights and had saved the film footage all these years. Finally restored, it now available on DVD. Not only that, a CD of the soundtrack is included, which is good, as my old album is scratched up and falling apart.
Watching the show 34 years later it still holds up well, even though some songs may cause a snicker: “I Gotcha” is a little strange, but with Bob Fosse’s choreography it still somehow works. Dressed by her friend Halston, Liza struts across the stage in some of the quirkiest costumes, performing the funky Fosse dance steps. The standout numbers are “Ring them Bells,” “You’ve Let Yourself Go,” and the medley from “Cabaret.” She goes for the big emotions and usually succeeds; she also can wring laughs with her expressive eyes and mouth.
Not only is the show itself wonderful, but the DVD bonus features are great. You have an A&E biography of Minnelli, a panel discussion with Minnelli and the makers of the film at the Toronto Film Festival, Minnelli and Kander reminiscing together, plus the slightly strange audio commentary by Minnelli for the show.
For those of you who only know Liza Minnelli as that over-emotional punchline, watching “Liza with a Z” could turn out surprising. It is a great showcase of why she was a star.