An admittedly “nervous” Liza Minnelli returned to show business this week, after a year-long absence from the stage. Minnelli made her 2015 debut to a sold-out audience in a Biloxi, Mississippi, casino, where fans and performers alike were anxious to see what the evening would hold.
Minnelli teased fans with a vague description of what her Biloxi show, entitled “Liza Minnelli in Concert with Billy Stritch,” would offer.
“Well, I try and do the things that people like. Like ‘New York, New York’ and ‘Cabaret’… But I also try to put in things that I know people there haven’t heard,” she said in an interview with AL.com. “So, it’s a big surprise, kids.”
And please the audience she did. The show opened Friday with a 30-minute set by musician and Liza’s long-time musical director Billy Stritch. Upon completion of his set, Liza took the stage.
The house filled with enthusiastic applause, and fans showed their appreciation for the legendary Minnelli by honoring her with a standing ovation before her performance even began.
Minnelli’s set list included a number of standards such as “Liza with a Z,” “New York, New York,” and “Cabaret,” all while the fans in the audience loudly professed their admiration of the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award-winning performer, with random shouts of “We love you,” and “You’re the best,” according to a report in GulfLive.
In keeping with the intimate feel of the evening, fans called out song requests to Minnelli, an action seen more in a bar setting rather than the large audience of the IP Casino. The quick-witted Minnelli shot back gracious responses to the requests, managing to charm fans and still keep to her planned set list.
When a fan called out a request for “Over the Rainbow,” Minnelli quipped, “It’s been done,” according to a report in the Times-Picayune.
Keeping her promise to surprise her Biloxi audience, Minnelli did just that when a call for “Maybe This Time” rang out, and Minnelli and Stritch obliged.
It was an evening of mutual admiration, with Biloxi fans thrilled by the presence and performance of Minnelli, and Minnelli feeding off the energy of the crowd.
“I wish you could feel what I feel right now, which is extremely relieved,” she said in a report in the Times Picayune. “I feel like I’m home.”
Minnelli will continue performing in a limited number of engagements throughout 2015. Her next stop will be in London, where she is scheduled to appear in a very different kind of show, and where she will be inducted into the London Palladium Hall of Fame.
Minnelli will appear at the London Palladium September 20, where she will be the subject of a one-on-one interview conducted by Sir Bruce Forsyth. She will then team up again with Stritch to perform a few songs upon the completion of the interview and participate in a question and answer session with the audience.
“I’m always excited to return to Britain, which I’ve considered to be a second home for many years. I have so many friends there and I look forward to being back again for these special intimate evenings. Whenever I do concerts people always say they want to hear about me growing up, being on Broadway, in the movies, the people I’ve met and worked with…so this will give me the chance to share a lot more of those stories. I can’t wait to see you all again,” she said in a press release, according to Playbill.
Minnelli will also perform in Sheffield, England, on September 22, then Glasgow, Scotland, September 24, before returning to the states for concerts in Oklahoma and Texas.
Minnelli returns to the stage after more than a year away, as the 69-year-old performer underwent back surgery in late 2014, then entered rehab for substance abuse in March.
[Image courtesy of Official Liza Minnelli/Facebook]