Last night I went to the Australian premiere of "Liza With A Z" at the Sydney Film Festival. I already own the DVD (it was released in America a couple of years ago) but I couldn't resist the opportunity to hear Liza's comments in the highly publicised, live-via-satellite Q&A session. Unfortunately, in true diva style, Liza cancelled at the last minute. A representative cited exhaustion in the wake of her recent Tony Award win but I'm guessing that's just code for "passed out in a bowl of coke". I was disappointed for about 30 seconds but then the film started and all was forgiven.
Everything about "Liza With A Z" is extraordinary. Bob Fosse's direction is as sharp and precise as his dazzling choreography, while the music - most of which was written specifically for the show by Kander & Ebb - lifts the concert from a mere performance into the realm of modern art. And then, there's Liza. Fresh from the success of Cabaret, at the very height of her formidable powers. Liza's vocal performance is staggering but I'm even more impressed with her dancing and comedic timing. She was the original triple threat! The result is 51 minutes of unmissable pop culture that won 4 Emmys and delivered Liza's only US top 20 album.
It's impossible to pick a favourite performance. The soundtrack hasn't really left my stereo since I was teenager, so I know each and every song back to front. There simply isn't a dud in the show. I love all the cover versions. "My Mammy", "Son Of A Preacher Man" and "God Bless The Child" are all vocally impeccable, while the staging of "I Gotcha" and "Bye Bye Blackbird" revolutionised pop concerts. Madonna, or more precisely her choreographer, ruthlessly ripped off the latter in both her Blond Ambition and Girlie Show tours. As great as the covers are, the real gems for me are the Kander & Ebb numbers. The Cabaret medley makes a fittingly brilliant finale but the songs written for the show are just as good. "Yes" is wonderfully upbeat, while the title track is as gay as it gets. However, if I had to choose a highlight it would be "Ring Them Bells". I've always loved this song. The witty lyrics never fail to crack me up and it's hard not to identify with the desperate adventures of Shirley Davore. Unfortunately all I got in Dubrovnik was a bad case of diarrhoea! Make sure you check out Liza's stunning performance below.
As far as I know, there are no plans to release "Liza With A Z" in Australia but I think that might change with her upcoming tour. If you can't wait (and I don't blame you), it's easy and relatively inexpensive to order the DVD from Amazon.