WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT!
Excuse me if I’m having trouble typing right now.
It’s just that I can’t stop doing jazz hands.
I went to see Liza this week and I still haven’t
quite recovered. Oh, wait. I meant to say I went to see LIZA! With an ‘!’. [Fosse
hands gyrating at my sides uncontrollably now.]
Photo credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images
Even though I’m an out and proud musical theater
queen, Liza never really did it for me, mostly because she sort of terrifies
me. I totally get how a gay man might wind up married to her; I just could
never understand how anyone would ever have the cojones to divorce her.
But I do
understand what so many people see in her as a performer. Years ago, I was
teaching English as Second Language, and one of my students came up to me and
shyly asked, “With teacher permission, I am missing class and going Victor/Victoria. No Julie Andrews now.
Liza understudy! I go Liza, yes?” And I said, “Of course you go Liza. Not only
that, I’m giving you an A.”
So I wasn’t really planning on seeing Liza’s new
show at the Palace. On Broadway! But then I ran into a friend who’d just been
and told me that it was the single gayest thing he’s ever done in his life.
That impressed me. I mean, this is somebody who lives in Chelsea. And goes to piano bars. And has been
to see Bjorn Again, the ABBA tribute band, 11 times.
What’s more, he made a good argument for seeing
Liza live as a means of tapping into gay cultural history. “I was sitting
there,” he told me, “and I was looking up at her on stage and all I could think
was, ‘Wow, she spent nine months inside Judy
I had bought my tickets before he finished saying
the word “womb.”
Minnelli (left) with Judy Garland
Here’s the most important thing you need to know
about seeing Liza! at the Palace … You can bring drinks right to your seat. And
they’re served in plastic sippy cups complete with plastic sippy lids, just
like babies use. That’s awesome for so many reasons that I’m going to devote an
entire column just to that at a future date.
The second thing you need to know is that when
Liza first appears on stage she’s in silhouette framed by a giant pink
triangle. I’m not making this up. Girlfriend knows who her audience is. And
speaking of the audience, by my count, the night I saw Liza! it was 1,236 gay
men, 24 straight Europeans, and one 9-year-old girl wearing patent leather
boots and a matching hat and coat set that had every gay man in the audience
staring at her with undisguised envy. A disturbing number of audience members
were wearing sequins.
Liza herself manages to shimmy while seated in a
chair, changes costume three times (from white sparkly pantsuit to black and
then ravishing red), is often framed by her adorable “boys,” and shoots a gun
right into the audience. Nobody seems to mind this. In fact, a man sitting two
rows in front of me spends most of the show pumping his fist in the air like
straight guys do at hockey games. Audience members cry out, “We love you,” at
regular intervals. And Liza says, “I love you!” right back. She also says,
“Shank you for being here. It meansh sho mucsh to me.” And I believe her. In
fact, I find myself loving her right back.
It’s hard not to love Liza! Liza doesn’t sing songs;
she acts them, and it’s a wondrous sight to behold. At times she’s out of
breath and flustered, as if surprised to find herself in the middle of a
theater performing songs. At others, she seems perilously close to keeling
over. But she somehow pulls through, and ultimately, pulls out all the stops.
Hearing her belt out “New York, New York” to a standing-room New York crowd is something of a religious experience. In the end, I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of it. There aren’t many legendz like Liza! anymore, and I wonder how many show-stopping shows like this the future will hold. Britney at the Palace just doesn’t have the same ring about it, even with a “!”
Next page! Dying in Carrie Fisher’s sleep.