From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:14

    Even in her sixties, Liza Minnelli still has something to prove in Liza’s at The Palace. And prove it she does: that she’s still got it, that she’s not the mess tabloids have painted her as, that she’s a survivor who not only survives but thrives. There are a few wobbly moments, but part of the Liza experience is (as in her mother Judy Garland’s later concerts) the feeling that the woman on stage will collapse if you take your focus away from her for even a second.

    But there she is, glittering in a selection of sequined outfits, flinging her arms, swiveling, popping, kicking and roaring out lyrics into a microphone. Liza’s at the Palace may be this generation’s Judy at Carnegie Hall, the comeback concert to end all comeback concerts. And Liza’s having a ball, genuinely thrilled to be back on Broadway, singing her signature tunes and doing a second-act tribute to her godmother Kay Thompson’s nightclub act. When a fan screamed, “We love you Liza!” she looked up into the mezzanine and said, with that little girl giggle she’s never outgrown, “I love you too! You do know that, right?” If we didn’t before, she’s convinced us now.

    Thru Dec. 28. The Palace Theatre, 1554 Broadway (between 46th and 47th Streets), 212-307-4100, $55–$125.


    The 1954 Irving Berlin musical White Christmas is a holiday cinematic treasure, an alternately hot and cool movie musical about love, snow, and the holidays. Unfortunately, the Broadway adaptation now playing at the Marquis is neither cool nor hot, despite the superhuman efforts of its tap-dancing chorus.

    Fans of the movie should be assured that the book manages to streamline the plot without sacrificing too much of the movie's charm, with the grave exception of changing a teenager into a precocious child. But as the musical drifts on and on and on, what seemed so effortless in the hands of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney becomes strained for stars Stephen Bogardus and Kerry O'Malley.

    Set in a Vermont Inn near Christmas, the story revolves around former army buddies Phil (Jeffry Denman) and Bob (Bogardus) and sister act Judy (Meredith Patterson) and Betty (O’Malley) as they try to put on a show (in a barn, natch) to save Phil and Bob's former general from financial ruin. And while several lesser-known Irving Berlin songs have been successfully interpolated into the plot, several of the film's standout moments have either been substantially changed or dropped altogether. Why was "Choreography," an old school, exuberant number about the dismalness of abstract dance in the theater, dropped from the show when Randy Skinner's staging for "Blue Skies" accomplishes the same thing with less interesting results?

    And while White Christmas is still pretty white (save for the obligatory African-American chorus boys and one Asian woman), librettists David Ives and Paul Blake have worked overtime in cramming as many minorities into the story as possible. A roll call of ethnic names is off-putting, but seeing a woman walking through a train singing “The Dreidel Song” in the 1950s is positively strange.

    Denman and Patterson are swell as Phil and Judy (especially a knock-out tap routine at the top of the second act), but O'Malley doesn't quite have a handle on Betty. Lacking all authority, she comes across as insipid and a little dull, until Betty's big torch number "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me." Then she pours out the acting that she'd held back, overselling a heartbreaking ballad as she hits fabulous notes. It's enough to make one rush right home to watch the DVD of Rosemary Clooney singing the same tune, oozing icy resignation. For a Christmas entry on the Great White Way, White Christmas isn't terrible. But renting the movie would be a lot more enjoyable and cost-effective.

    Thru Jan. 4. The Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway (between 45th and 46th Sts.), 212-307-4100, $66.50–$121.50.