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Monday, September 13, 2010

Liza Minnelli Sparkles in Roanoke

It's funny how sometimes I can put something forth to the universe and have my "wish" granted. That's what happened to me last week with Liza Minnelli tickets. I had mentioned to my husband how cool it was that Liza was coming to little ole Roanoke at the Civic Center and that I would like to go see her. The look on his face was priceless. He then asked me if I would like to go see Styx with him at the Salem Civic Center. The look on my face was priceless. Neither one of us would budge. That didn't stop me from entering a contest on-line to get free tickets. I thought if I won I could talk my daughter into coming with me since she's familiar with Liza, not with her singing but from her appearances on one of our favorite since cancelled shows, "Arrested Development."

My daughter informed me that she was shooting video for the Hidden Valley homecoming game for school Friday night so she couldn't come. My son, just looked at me with a "don't even ask" look and ended with "Sorry, mom you know I'd loooooove to go with you, but I'm working." I figured I probably wouldn't win anyway and since I hadn't heard anything by Thursday I assumed I hadn't.

I had lunch with a friend who I suspected would like Liza so I casually mentioned to him that she was playing in town and I was trying to win tickets and if I did by some miracle would he like to join me. He practically burst out in show tunes and said YES! Friday I still hadn't heard anything so went by his job to let him know it didn't look good. Oh well, guess it wasn't meant to be.

Friday afternoon I signed onto Facebook and saw a post by the Salem Times and Register...they had free tickets to see Liza that just came through and the first person to call would get them. I doubted they would still be available since the post was 15 minutes old, but figured I'd give it a shot. Lo and behold they were still available! All I had to do was get to their office by five to pick them up and they were mine. It was after 4 and I know how crazy Main Street in Salem could be but I was determined to make it. On my way I called my friend but couldn't get in touch with him since he still lives in the 19th century and doesn't have a cellphone. I called his partner's cellphone and asked him if he thought he would like to come. He said he thought he would and would try and get a message to him. After I hung up I wondered if I could score another ticket if his partner would like to come too. So I called him back and asked and he said he'd love to. Yay!

I zipped down Main Street and arrived in time. No one else had called about the tickets so I was able to receive three. Thank you Salem Times! Apparently the person who was supposed to go said her husband was sick so they cancelled and the paper didn't want them to go to waste. I wondered if her husband was "sick" the way mine would suddenly catch ill to avoid going but figured probably not, so doused the envelope and tickets with Lysol as soon as I got home. I may have put too much spray as the lettering started to fade on one of the tickets. I hoped that wouldn't be a problem.

I called the boys and told them of the good news. We figured we better leave early to get a parking spot since my husband mentioned how crazy that lot was when he used to take my daughter to see country acts, when she was still liked country music and hadn't become "tainted" (thank God) by goth and alternative music. We got there by seven and the lot was so empty we parked practically in front of the door. I had to look at the tickets again to make sure Friday was the correct night. It was. Since we had an hour to kill we looked to go somewhere to eat. There is absolutely nothing in walking distance from the Roanoke Civic Center other than McDonald's. Crazy. The only thing on the menu I could eat was the snack sized apples, yogurt and walnut. I couldn't even eat the walnuts because they were covered in sugar. Since I'm allowed one glass of red wine a night on this diet, I thought I may want to cheat and have two, so didn't even bother with the yogurt since it tasted sweet. When we saw Seinfeld they were serving wine so I figure they would for Liza as well, and I was right.

We got to our seats, certainly not the best seats in the house, but for free they were just fine. As we looked around the center we were astonished at how empty it was. It had to be less than half-filled! What's wrong with Roanokers??? The gun show attracts more people! Didn't they realize this was Liza with a Z Minnelli? How often does a star like her come to Roanoke? Not enough, and now I know why. They don't get enough support. People bitch and moan Roanoke never gets enough big names, yet when they do, people don't show up, preferring to spend their Friday night at a local high school football game or something. If Paula Dean sells out for the price she's getting for tickets, which I think are more than Liza's, there is something seriously wrong with these people.

David Wiley opened up with a short set with the RSO. I thought the selection of tunes he chose was odd and better suited for a 4th of July or circus event than for Liza Minnelli. They closed with a smattering of bits of tunes from "The Sound of Music" which made no sense either since that's Julie Andrews baby not even Liza's mother Judy Garland's. And for the record, I must be the only person in Roanoke who has never seen "The Sound of Music" nor do I want to. Also for the record, by this part of the show I think I laughed more with my buddy than I did when Seinfeld performed. Don't even ask.

After a brief intermission Liza glimmered all spangly as she emerged from behind the curtain and got right into it. She had her own conductor and a couple of personal musicians with the RSO taking second fiddle. Unlike Seinfeld, who goofed on Roanoke, Liza was the ultimate lady saying how wonderful it was to be here, even if she couldn't pronounce Roanoke correctly. She marveled at the beauty of the drive down, so I wonder if she limoed it, or took a tour bus instead of flying. I hoped she hadn't taken a Greyhound or some cheap rental car and came to Roanoke because she wanted to not because she had to. She said she felt very comfortable because we all seemed so comfortable. There were tables set up on the floor for those who had dinner before the show. It would have been much smarter to book Liza in a smaller venue especially since she is so intimate with the audience. If they're going to have acts like her in the Roanoke Civic Center they really need to invest in a Jumbotron. I would have loved to see her face.

At least I was able to see her movements, which weren't as energetic as she once was, but for a 64 year old with two knee replacements they were splendid. I was worried she was going to hurt herself. I kept thinking of Lucille and her vertigo on "Arrested Development".

The Civic Center did not do justice to her voice -- the levels were way off as was the quality of sound as a whole. The instruments sounded tinny at times and sounded about what a public address system used at a sports event does. She performed non-stop for about an hour and a half, which surprised me. At times she sounded a little out of breath, but that didn't seem to stop her. She'd just sit on a stool and sing a slow number. She was such an amazing performer that even in our lousy seats so far away we were able to feel her energy and see her hands (private joke). I hadn't realized just how lousy our seats were (well besides the no-leg room and small cushions) until my friend showed me at the end of the concert that springs were coming through his!

I loved the way Liza related personal stories to the audience before she sang some of the songs, like when Uncle Frank (Sinatra, that is) asked if could sing "New York, New York." As I suspected, when she burst into the first bars I felt chills run down my arms. But I think Liza really hit home when she burst into "Cabaret." Watching her strut across the stage, loving every minute of it, I realized she is is too short to spend worrying about things I can't control. Yeah, so I'm overweight and sometimes my body hurts, and I'm never going to be what I envision as the "perfect" specimen, so it's time I became more comfortable with who I am and enjoy what time I have left -- time to treat life as a cabaret. Thank you Liza for putting the spark back! I'm sort of embarrassed and sad that more people hadn't been there to capture it...

What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.

Put down the knitting,
The book and the broom.
Time for a holiday.
Life is Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret.

Come taste the wine,
Come hear the band.
Come blow your horn,
Start celebrating;
Right this way,
Your table's waiting

No use permitting
some prophet of doom
To wipe every smile away.
Come hear the music play.
Life is a Cabaret, old chum,
Come to the Cabaret!


  1. Thanks for the summary of the show Elena. I heard from others that she was marvelous.

    You are right about people not supporting big names here. I am very guilty of it. I love the way you make your way out to the shows and night spots etc. Wish I could be more like you. I'm so busy with my work all the time and I absolutely love staying home at Woodloft. I've made it my sanctuary but I miss a lot!

  2. The Mrs. would have enjoyed Liza. Free tickets are always the best--glad you got them and had a great time.

  3. Perhaps the low turnout is due to some of the things you mentioned about the uncomfortable seats. With what they ask for ticket prices, I think people expect a certain level of comfort watching the show that they know they won't get in those awful seats.