Tag Archives: liza minnelli

Liza Minnelli joins NOH8 campaign

Liza Minnelli is the latest celebrity to support the acclaimed NOH8 campaign.

Her NOH8 portrait was unveiled May 4 by the organization whose mission is to promote equality through visual protest.

The campaign is a photographic silent protest created in direct response to the passage of California’s Proposition 8 which amended the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Photos feature subjects with tape over their mouths, symbolizing their voices being silenced by Prop 8 and similar legislation around the world, with “NOH8” painted on one cheek in protest.

When Minnelli was asked her message for the LGBT community she responded, “Here’s what I believe … no shame, no blame, no guilt. Be happy. And be who you are. I love you.”

‘Cabaret’ is still powerful, relevant

The Oscar-winning film “Cabaret” is finally out on Blu-ray. A multitude of memorable lines and songs from “Cabaret” have left their mark on gay culture.

The film is based on the book “Goodbye to Berlin” by gay writer Christopher Isherwood (“A Single Man”). The book served as the basis for the play “I Am a Camera” and the subsequent Kander and Ebb stage musical “Cabaret.”

The 1972 film was the darling of the Academy Awards 40 years ago, taking home eight trophies, including statuettes for lead actress Liza Minnelli in the most momentous role of her career, supporting actor Joel Grey and director Bob Fosse. Coming out at a time when the movie musical had been all but written off, the success of “Cabaret” was a special triumph. It tackled such serious subjects as bisexuality, abortion, parental abandonment and anti-Semitism.

Set in early 1930s Berlin, the musical numbers take place in the Kit-Kat Club, where divinely decadent “international sensation” Fraulein Sally Bowles (Minnelli), an American singer/actress, is on the bill. Residing in a boarding house, Sally meets newcomer Brian (Michael York), a Brit looking to rent a room and give English lessons to pay the rent. In spite of her “ancient instincts,” Sally falls for him and they become fast friends. 

Initially, Brian doesn’t share Sally’s feelings, but they eventually become lovers. Soon, their circle of friends grows to include Fritz (Fritz Wepper), Jewish department store heiress Natalia (Marisa Berenson) and flirtatious, well-to-do baron Maximilian (Helmut Griem). The club performances and the budding relationships are set against – and reflect – the rise of Nazism.

Still as powerful and relevant as when it was first released, “Cabaret” startles with its visionary direction, trendsetting choreography and staggering performances.

In addition to a 40-page book, Blu-ray bonus features include featurettes, such as “Cabaret: The Musical That Changed Musicals,” narrated by Neil Patrick Harris.

Purchase the DVD from Amazon, click here. 

‘Cabaret’ celebrates 41st birthday with a party

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome – to middle age.

The landmark film “Cabaret” – starring Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York – has turned 41, but that’s not going to stop a party: All three actors will be attending an anniversary celebration screening planned Thursday at the Ziegfeld Theatre, where the movie premiered in 1972.

“I can’t wait to see them all again,” says Minnelli, 66, who won an Academy Award playing Sally Bowles, the fishnet-and-bowler hat wearing chanteuse. “Everybody who worked on it was just wonderful.”

The Bob Fosse-directed film, adapted and reworked from the Broadway musical, has also been painstakingly remastered – a facelift of sorts – by Warner Home Video and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on Feb. 5.

“Cabaret,” which won eight Academy Awards – in a year that also featured competition from a little film called “The Godfather” – hasn’t seemed to gather mold over time, remaining a crucial cultural touchstone.

Grey, who won an Oscar as the menacing, white-faced master of ceremony, recalls attending a screening of the new blockbuster “Les Miserables” and immediately being asked questions.

“Some of the people involved in the production were very, very anxious to get my response because of ‘Cabaret,’” said Grey, 80. “It turned out to be the thing that you compare everything after that.”

The film opened Feb. 13, 1972, to strong reviews, with Roger Ebert calling it an “unforgettable cry of despair” and Variety saying it was “literate, bawdy, sophisticated, sensual, cynical, heart-warming, and disturbingly thought-provoking.”

The American Film Institute placed it fifth on its list of greatest movie musicals, and “Cabaret” was deemed significant enough to be earmarked for preservation by the Library of Congress.  

“Cabaret,” both the Broadway show and film, are based on the 1951 Broadway play “I Am a Camera,” which, in turn, was based on Christopher Isherwood’s book “Goodbye to Berlin.”

Set in 1931 Berlin, “Cabaret” centers on the world of the indulgent Kit Kat Klub as it becomes intertwined with the world outside, which gets more precarious on the brink of World War II.

John Kander and Fred Ebb, who wrote the songs for the Broadway show, removed some for the film and added others, including “Mein Herr,” “Maybe This Time” and “Money, Money.” The soundtrack retains the classic “Willkommen” and “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”

“Cabaret” hasn’t been shown in a decade because one of the film reels had a vertical scratch. Restorers recently went frame by frame through the entire film – all 1.4 million of them.

The work was so time-consuming that the 40th anniversary last year was missed. But fans will now get a high-def print six times as clear and sharp as the previous DVD release, as well as plenty of goodies, including new photos and a new documentary, “Cabaret: The Musical That Changed Musicals.” 

Fosse got the job directing the film because Hal Prince, the stage director, was too busy. Fosse, raised in the theater, was a risk since his only other film, “Sweet Charity,” had bombed.

“He still managed to be phenomenal and make a groundbreaking, historic movie musical by rethinking it and changing musical movies forever,” said Grey, who reprised the role he played onstage. “It was oddly much darker on-screen than it was onstage.”

Dark is an understatement. Musical movies on the whole were saccharine in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Fosse’s film was a stab of something more realistic – all but one song was sung in the confines of the cabaret itself – and also more frightening.

The film dealt with Nazism, anti-Semitism and homosexuality. In one song, a German folk dance is juxtaposed with another scene of someone being beaten by Nazis. The movie also reinserted the often-omitted final line in “If You Could See Her,” a love song between the MC and a woman in a gorilla suit: “If you could see her through my eyes/She wouldn’t look Jewish at all!”

Filming took place in Munich in the spring with Minnelli as Sally, a role she had lost out on for Broadway because the part had been written originally for an Englishwoman. Minnelli created the look – bowl-cut hair and huge eyelashes that would become iconic.

York, Minnelli and Grey recall a tough working environment. The perfectionist Fosse, who died in 1987, made the actors do take after take after take. They recall enormous amounts of smoke and harsh lighting – but also the lifelong bonds that were created.

“It looks great and it was worth it,” said York, 70. “For me, it was one of the most enjoyable film shoots I ever experienced. I’m not just saying that because it’s the appropriate thing to say. But it really was.”

The three will be reunited at the Ziegfeld Theatre, where they sat 41 years ago and were stunned to hear people applauding after every song.

“I can only hope that happens again,” said Grey.

On the Web…

http://www.warnerbros.com

Dialing for divas

Idina Menzel

Idina Menzel is one of those larger-than-life performers whose brilliance can’t really be captured in a recording studio. But you can hear her shine on the live “Chess in Concert” CD and especially on her new disc “Live: Barefoot at the Symphony.” Intended as a companion to her live DVD, the disc covers virtually all the bases, including songs from “Rent” and “Wicked.” A born storyteller, Menzel regales the audience with personal anecdotes about Barbra Streisand, appearing on “Glee” and falling in love with a gay drama teacher.

Liza Minnelli

Like Idina Menzel, with whom she shares much in common, Liza Minnelli recently released a live disc. Part of the “Legends of Broadway” series, Minnelli’s “Live at the Winter Garden” isn’t on par with the celebrated “Liza with a Z” album. It does, however, possess a pleasing pleasantness. Patter songs, such as “And I in my Chair” and the politically incorrect “Exactly Like Me,” and such covers as “Quiet Thing” and Stevie Wonder’s “You and I” make the disc recommended for hardcore and casual fans alike.

“End of the Rainbow”

In the show “End of the Rainbow,” British actress Tracie Bennett portrayed Liza’s mother Judy Garland on London’s West End – and now on Broadway – to great acclaim. The 12-track cast recording “Tracie Bennett Sings Judy: Songs from the Broadway production ‘End of the rainbow’ and other Garland Classics” features such Garland standards as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Zing Went the Strings of my Heart” and “Get Happy.”

Madonna

Still shameless and somewhat out of touch after all these years, Madonna follows up the worst album of her career (“Hard Candy”) with one that isn’t much better. The drug that Madonna’s “MDNA” most closely resembles is Milk of Magnesia. Clearly, Madonna is in desperate need of new songwriting partners – just listen to the embarrassing “I’m Addicted” and then book the Material Mom into Hazelden. She could also use a decent therapist (check out the vitriol and violence on “Gang Bang” and “I Don’t Give A”). Mostly derivative (“Give me All            Your Luvin’ ”) and dull (“Superstar”), “MDNA” tries to redeem itself with “I’m a Sinner” and “Falling Free.”

Katy Perry

We have Madonna to blame for train wrecks such as Katy Perry. Madonna gave a whole generation of teenile performers of questionable talents (hello, Britney!) permission to strut their limited stuff. On the expanded reissue of her mega-bestselling sophomore spin “Teenage Dream,” Perry trades in the faux-pink pre-fab rock snarl of her ridiculously popular debut disc and aims her sites on Lady Gaga’s dance diva crown. A little long in the tooth to be anyone’s “teenage dream,” Perry does her best Ke$ha (remember her?) on “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).” “California Gurls,” featuring Snoop Dogg (why?), is a gooey concoction, and “Peacock” never takes wing. “The One That Got Away,” yet another cookie-cutter Max Martin composition, and the squirm-worthy “Hummingbird Heartbeat” don’t help. But the album’s centerpiece “Circle the Drain” is a knockout, and “Not Like the Movies” does reel in listeners. Only the acoustic version “Part of Me” qualifies as a bonus among the bonus tracks.

Rihanna

Rihanna sharpened her focus on the dance floor with her “Talk That Talk” (def Jam) disc. High energy tracks such as “We Found Love” (featuring Calvin Harris) and “Where Have You Been” raised her stock among the dance club queens. But are we any closer to figuring out who this publicity monger really is? Is she a sleazy sex kitten (“Cockiness,” “Birthday Cake”) or a tear-jerking rock diva (“Farewell,” “We All Want Love”)? And does anyone really care?

Seniority


Elton John and Leon Russell

One of the most talked about collaborations of the year, Elton John, 63, and Leon Russell, 68, bring their mutual admiration society to bear on “The Union” (Decca/Rocket). Contemporary rock’s original piano men (sorry, Billy) touch on a variety of musical styles over the course of 14 tracks, a majority of which were composed by Elton and longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. It’s a pleasant, if surprisingly low-key, affair. The guys really heat up the piano keys on songs such as “Hey Ahab,” “Monkey Suit,” “A Dream Come True” and the balladry of “The Best Part of the Day” and “When Love Is Dying.”

Carole King and James Taylor

“Live at the Troubadour” (Hear Music) reunites ‘70s singer/songwriter icons Carole King, 68, and James Taylor, 62, for a concert of their classic tunes. They sound great, and the energy of the grateful audience must have been a source of inspiration for the pair. The chill-inducing rendition of “Up On The Roof” is one of the high points of the disc. And just try not to get choked up when they sing “You’ve Got A Friend.” On the shallow end, check out the DVD to see how the once-hot Taylor didn’t age so well while King has never looked better.

Leonard Cohen

“Songs From the Road” (Columbia/Legacy) is another concert CD/DVD from another living music legend, Leonard Cohen, 76.  A compilation of live recordings from Cohen’s 2008-09 World Tour, songs such as “Bird On The Wire,” “Chelsea Hotel” and somewhat more recent selections including “That Don’t Make It Junk” as well as his signature song “Hallelujah,” are performed in his renowned spoken/sung style to the delight of the riveted audiences.

Richard Thompson

Also going the live route, Richard Thompson, 61, delivers “Dream Attic” (Shout Factory), recorded in February 2010. Instead of playing his familiar songs, Thompson unveiled 13 new songs for his fans in Seattle, Portland and Eugene, Ore., and Arcata and San Francisco, Calif. Luckily for Thompson and those in attendance, the new material, including “Demons In Her Dancing Shoes,” “Big Sun Falling In The River” and “If Love Whispers Your Name,” is solid and well-received.

Burton Cummings

Best known as the lead singer of Canadian hit-makers the Guess Who, Burton Cummings, 63, rises to the occasion on “Above The Ground” (New Door/Ume).  Still rocking his trademark mustache, Cummings rocks harder than you might expect on tracks such as “Crazy If You Mess With The Gods,” “Junior Won’t Behave” and “We Just Came From The U.S.A.” He isn’t afraid to dabble in country (“TPOS”), R&B (“Ponderlust”) or just mellow out (“A Touch of Morning”). The bonus DVD takes us behind the scenes during the making of the disc.

Peter, Paul and Mary

This tribute to the late Mary (Travers), who passed away at 72 in 2009, “The Prague Sessions” (WB/Rhino) sets the trio’s politically conscious songs to arrangements by Czech National Sympony Orchestra. “Some Walls” and “Don’t Laugh at Me,” keep PP&M’s message fresh. Additionally, classics such as “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” “Day Is Done” and “Puff, The Magic Dragon” benefit from the orchestration.  

Ringo Starr

John Lennon and Paul McCartney are getting the reissue treatment this season. So where are the Ringo Starr reissues? Until they show up, Starr’s fans can occupy themselves with “Y Not” (Hip-O/Ume), on which he teams up with Joe Walsh, Dave Stewart, Gary Wright, Van Dyke Parks, Richard Marx, Joss Stone, Ben Harper, Edgar Winter, Billy Squier and others. McCartney even makes a guest appearance on a couple of tracks, including “Peace Dream,” in which Starr gives a shout out to Lennon.

Laurie Anderson

In addition to containing “Only An Expert,” one of the best (and most unexpected) dance tracks of the year, the CD “Homeland” (Nonesuch) by performance artist turned pop star Laurie Anderson, 63, features Anderson’s distinctive perspective on society and history. It’s powerful stuff, as you might imagine, and it’s never short of riveting. The DVD includes “Homeland: The Story of the Lark” and “Laurie’s Violin.”

Johnny Cash

The late Johnny Cash would have turned 78 this year. As the title of his last studio recording with Rick Rubin suggests, “American VI: Ain’t No Grave” (American), the mood of the disc is funereal and final. Mournful and resigned, Cash put his spirit into the original “I Corinthians 15:55,” and renditions of songs by Sheryl Crow (“Redemption Day”), old friend Kris Kristofferson (“For The Good Times”), Tom Paxton (“Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound”), among others.

Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli, 64, is the Energizer bunny of show biz. As long as they keep replacing her failing parts (i.e. hips, knees), she’s going to keep on going. That can be either good or bad, depending on what Liza is doing.

Like Barbra Streisand, another aging diva, Minnelli has turned her attention to jazz vocals. On her new CD “Confessions” (Decca), Minnelli raids the American songbook and bravely works her way through selections by Peggy Lee (“He’s A Tramp”), Irving Berlin (“I Got Lost In His Arms”) and Cy Coleman (“You Fascinate Me So”), among others. Unlike Streisand, Minnelli only had a few good notes to begin with, so her reading of “At Last” is problematic (Liza better watch her ass if Etta James finds out). But she makes the most of the clever title track and sounds as if she’s enjoying herself on “On Such A Night As This” and “All The Way.”