Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review: Liza's at the Palace....

A Legendary Night of Good
She looks good, she sounds good and she reflects a lot about a woman who was very good to her making for, yes, a very good night at the theater.

She's Liza Minelli in a triumphant return to Broadway for her song and dance variety show Liza's at the Palace... at the Palace Theater through Dec. 28.
It's not exactly a Broadway show, but Liza's not your typical performer. Receiving a standing ovation at the start of the show (and burst of enthusiastic standing ovations after every number from ardent fans sitting in the first few rows), Minelli, directed by Ron Lewis (who also choreographs), entertains with long list of dramatically acted songs including some trademarks like "Cabaret" and "New York, New York." She's backed up by a quartet of Johnny Rogers, Cartes Alexander, Jim Caruso, Tiger Martina and a terrific orchestra led by conductor/drummer Michael Berkowitz and the excellent Billy Stritch (who leaves the piano to ham it up with the boys in one number).

The second half of the program is a dance-filled tribute to the late-1940s nightclub act of Minnelli's godmother, Kay Thompson, who was a ground-breaking vocal arranger and musical director/vocal coach at MGM Studios (and also the author of the "Eloise" children's books). Songs include “I Love a Violin,” “Clap Yo’ Hands,” “Jubilee Time,” and “Hello Hello."

Ray Klausen's sparkling backdrops, lighted by Matt Berman, give the production a Las Vegas feel. Minelli appears in a number of sparkling pantsuits and an unfortunate selection of a mini-skirt tunic top with over-the-knee boots for one segment (costume design is unattributed).

One audience member wondered at intermission whether anyone under the age of 50 would even know who Kay Thompson or Liza Minelli are. I hope so. Besides giving a solid night of entertainment, Minelli stood on the stage as proof that you can triumph over circumstances. It also is really nice to hear her speak so lovingly of her mother (the legendary Judy Garland)and of Thompson. Stories about how Garland and Thompson cried into a powder puff while watching Minelli on stage and how Thompson stood by Minelli and made her believe in herself are truly touching and evidence of the good in people.

Take your kids. You'll be entertained by a good performer and the kids will learn a lot about how to be good to each other.

Christians might also like to know:
• Minor language
• God's name taken in vain
• Support of a song with lyrics that reflect on being gay

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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