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Hazel Davis joins the cabaret at the Bridgewater Hallelujah

Published on June 4th 2008.

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There is more than a hint of lavender at the Bridgwater Hall tonight.“Do you notice anything different about me?” grins Liza Minnelli as she shimmies on in a sparkling black sweat suit with trademark spiky hair and bonkers silver headband to an instant standing ovation. “I’ve lost 150lb!” she cackles.

She’s lost about 35lb and of course we notice. Everyone here adores her and that’s why we’ve paid £85 for the privilege of watching a 62-year-old of dubious mental stability leap around the stage.

"The show is peppered with name-heavy Hollywood anecdotes, interspersed with faux sobs and excited childlike hand-claps. I don’t believe a single word she says but I am faux-sobbing along with the best of them"

The audience springs to its feet when she appears and hardly sits down throughout the whole performance. It’s her first UK tour in 20 years and she's fighting fit. We are here, of course, to celebrate the glorious pair of lungs she inherited from her mother Judy Garland. We don’t care that she married David Gest, had Martine McCutcheon as a bridesmaid and counts Michael Jackson among her pals. Or maybe we do and we love her all the more for it. But we’re really here to hear her sing.

She starts the show with the golden oldies 'Teach Me', 'The Man I Love' and 'Some People'. Me and the row of shiny boys next to me are loving it, offering a standing ovation at every opportunity, so much so that she mock-pleads with the audience to “sit down, please!!”. She doesn’t mean it, of course, and her humility is about as believable as her wedding vows. “Manchester has such a special place in my heart,” she sobs, before looking round for the applause. It’s hard to imagine that she’s ever been anywhere other than the airport, let alone made regular visits to Affleck’s Palace to stock up on diamante.

But the theatricality is why we love her. The show is peppered with name-heavy Hollywood anecdotes, interspersed with faux sobs and excited childlike hand-claps. I don’t believe a single word she says but I am faux-sobbing along with the best of them, and, ok, perhaps a real tear or two escapes during 'Maybe This Time'.

The first half ends with a “little unknown number, ‘Cabaret’”, delivered at full pelt and to complete and utter uproar from the audience. Fabulous though the Bridgwater Hall is, the slightly clinical surroundings aren’t quite Liza. Our Liza needs a little more Vegas, a little more velvet. But the acoustics are good and as she switches between hand-held and headset-mic, it’s the music which dominates.

Part two is a more intimate nightclub affair, based on a tribute to her godmother, musician and actress Kaye Thompson, vocal coach to stars such as Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Frank Sinatra. Tonight Liza is joined by her own version of Thompson’s backing singers, the Williams Brothers, a harmonious quartet of gloriously hand-wavy honeys.

Dressed in black again but sporting a long pink scarf this time, Liza’s anecdotes get more and more saccharine. Thompson, her “fairy godmother” clearly dispersed Pollyanna-style pearls of wisdom non-stop and, to be honest, she sounds more than a little tiresome. But it’s kinda cute and when Liza talks about her mother it’s with real tangible emotion.

The cabaret-style performances are impressive and Minnelli’s ensemble work with the brothers is effortlessly impressive. Dressed in knee-high boots and a mini-dress she high-kicks through 'Basin St Blues' and 'Mammy' like she was 21 again. This woman is the same age as my mother. Which makes the gyrating and simulated masturbation (really) in some of the sexier songs, a little hard to stomach but is food for thought.

However, it’s the finale, her trademark number 'New York, New York', which raises the biggest cheer and deservedly so. Throwing her head back and bellowing the notes like her life depends on it, it’s very hard not to be swept up in the emotion. Start spreading the news. Liza’s definitely back.

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John BoyJune 4th 2008.

I had the honour of seeing Liza at the Royal Centre Nottingham on Friday 30 May. What a show, this was Liza with a Z in her step. She was fantastic, Liza held the auidence in the palm of her hand. Liza May Minnelli you are true star, a legend, thank you for this wonderful show, I'm still smiling.

BOBMCDERMOTTJune 4th 2008.

Liza with a Z for Zing

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