Liza With A “Z”

On Monday, March 13, Manhattan’s Ziegfeld Theater was transformed into a raucous celebration of all things Liza Minnelli when Showtime Networks, in conjunction with M●A●C. Cosmetics presented the first-ever theatrical broadcast of Minnelli’s landmark 1972 television variety special, “Liza With A “Z”, benefiting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

The full-house of over 1,100 friends and fans, included long-time Broadway Cares supporters Rosie O’Donnell, Bebe Neuwirth, John Kander, David Hyde Pierce, Christine Ebersole, Jane Krakowski and Alan Cumming- who surprised Liza by appearing at the podium to usher in a giant birthday cake following the screening- as well as such “bold-face names” as Joan Collins, John Waters, Linda Lavin, Tony Danza, Parker Posey, Peter Boyle, Isabella Rossellini, Rufus Wainwright and Lili Taylor.

Equally jubilant were the hundreds of Liza legions who had waited 34 years to once again see Bob Fosse’s masterwork filmed live on-stage at the Lyceum and using 8 cameras to capture the exuberant star in her freshly minted, post Oscar-winning “Cabaret” coup.

From the moment Liza entered the Ziegfeld – on the heels of her official curb-side greeting from Mayor Mike Bloomberg- the audience erupted in spontaneous, loving tribute, brought to its feet for the first of many standing ovations. Executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan spoke before the screening of their enthusiasm for the chance to bring this fully restored, digitally re-mixed concert to a new audience. “It’s almost like discovering a lost Fosse-Minnelli-Kander-Ebb movie”, says Craig Zadan.

Certainly the crowd would agree: each number – from the ebullient opening of “Yes”, the haunting “It Was a Good Time”, and a sexy “Preacher Man” to the Cabaret montage and the stunning “Mammy” nod to her mother, Judy Garland – ignited the crowd in blistering applause. The sheer brilliance of Minnelli’s talents molded to perfection by Fred Ebb’s words and Fosse’s illuminating coverage created a magic that few New York experiences- on stage or screen- can match.

“It was a special time”, said Liza, “We were all at a certain peak of excellence, and we were together as a team. I’m so proud of it.” The star spoke also of the pride she felt in dedicating this unparalleled evening to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, an organization which she related is very dear to her heart.

This honor was echoed by Peter Lichtenthal from M●A●C Viva Glam Cosmetics who arrived on stage with a giant check for BC/EFA in the amount of $25,000. By evening’s end, $43,000 had been raised for BC/EFA. Before moving on to the after-party at The Supper Club, Liza blew out her candles by wishing “Health for everyone!” Broadway Cares salutes Liza, Showtime and MAC for creating a truly awe-inspiring evening no one on hand will soon forget.

Photo Credits: Walter McBride