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Minnelli makes for memorable moments

An hour into her concert Friday night in Fallsview Casino's Avalon Ballroom, Liza Minnelli sang "What Did I Have That I Don't Have Now," from a film directed by her father, Vincente Minnelli.

On the evidence of that song alone, it's clear that the spark-ling Minnelli still holds every drop of talent she ever had in her prime and that her charm -- far from drying up -- only has multiplied with age.

In a two-hour show -- stunning from start to finish -- Minnelli laughed and belted her way through a repertoire of songs from her career that extends back more than 40 years, one influenced so much by her mother, Judy Garland, and stepmother, Kay Thompson.

In a mix of anecdotes and hit songs combined with a few rarities, Minnelli was backed up by a tight 12-piece orchestra and joined on stage in a somewhat bizarre twist by four men playing Andy Williams and his three brothers, with whom Thompson performed a nightclub act in the late 1940s.

In a sort of ad hoc tribute, Minnelli and the quartet presented a handful of songs arranged by Thompson. The fact that none of the arrangements was particularly good doesn't even seem to matter, because, in Minnelli's case, forgettable music makes the performance stand out all the more.

The real joy of the show, however, came from songs like "You've Let Yourself Go" and "He's Funny That Way," in which Minnelli's trademark storytelling style allows her voice -- now smokier with age but still resonating with the exact pitch of excitement from her youth -- to shine.

The show got off to a somewhat rocky start with a dorky, calypso rendition of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" and then went into a sloppily arranged version of "Our Love Is Here to Stay." After that, however, it was all uphill, with Minnelli's stage banter almost as enthralling as the performance itself.

Toward the end, such trademark Minnelli songs as "The World Goes Round" and "New York, New York" were so gracefully and forcefully performed that it was easy to imagine the 61-year-old Minnelli as Sally Bowles right back on the Kit Kat Club stage in the 1972 film "Cabaret."

At one point, Minnelli -- seeming so happy to be on a stage, where she was raised and where she belongs -- said of her recent divorce, "The only people I am ever married to are you."

And it would have been impossible to find a soul in the crowd who would ever want a divorce from Minnelli after a show like that.

e-mail: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

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