Friday, January 8, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Last Night When We Were Young

by Liz Smith

Judy, Lorna, Liza and ... Seth Sikes! Also: What to do, what to do, in New York City — Tommy Tune ... Alan Cumming ... Tony Bennett ... "Ruthless!" ... "Alladin" ... Mother Courage."

"THE NIGHT is bitter, the stars have lost their glitter/the wind grows colder, suddenly you're older ..."

So goes Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin's mournful torch song, "The Man That Got Away," sung by Judy Garland in 1954's "A Star is Born." (Over the years, others have performed this regretful longing for a lost love, but, once Garland worked her magic on a number, it became hers, period.)

Soon, JSP Records will release a massive CD set, "Judy Garland Sings Harold Arlen."
Arlen, along with collaborators such as "Yip" Harburg, Johnny Mercer, and Ted Koehler was responsible for a great deal of Judy's legendary catalogue, including "Over the Rainbow" ... "Get Happy" ... "Stormy Weather" (She and Lena Horne shared that one) ... "Last Night When We Were Young," etc.

This contains 45 tracks, and is produced and complied by the team of John Stedman and Lawrence Schulman, who have presented other Garland treasure sets, such as "Lost Tracks" and "The Garland Variations."
Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, MGM executive L.K. Sydney, E.Y. Harburg, Meredith Wilson, and Harry Link. Judy Garland and Harold Arlen are at the piano.
Everything has been lovingly re-mastered, including Judy's surprise appearance at a Lincoln Center tribute to Arlen in 1968, which was taped from the audience. Just a few months before her death, Judy sounds remarkably refreshed and strong, giving perhaps her best rendition of the tender "It's a New World." She knew she had to be at her best for Arlen, and she was.

Miss Garland, often seen as a tragic figure during her tumultuous life and for a number of years after her death, has been rightfully re-vitalized and re-appreciated as a great artist. As is fitting, and proper.
SOMETIMES, gossip can still be amusing, and remind me of a slightly (only slightly) gentler time, when silly stories abounded. Somebody sent me one of these the other day, from an online site, "PopSugar." It's a photo tribute to — the beguiling azure eyes of Bradley Cooper. "27 Pictures of Bradley Cooper's Blue Eyes That Will Stop You In Your Tracks!"

I wasn't stopped in my tracks. I was sitting down. But scanning the photos was fun and relaxing. He really is a beautiful guy. And I was ticked by PopSugar's description of the 41-year-old leading man: "Bradley Cooper, star of films and speaker of French."
ARE YOU bored? Do you insist there's nothing to do, no-place to go, and that reality TV is your only respite? For shame! Especially if you live in New York City.

Here are just a few of the fun things happening in the next weeks and months:

Tommy Tune, the long-limbed legend, returns to Café Carlyle from Jan 12 to the 22nd. His new act is called "Tommy Tune, Tonight!" (TT will be followed on January 26 by the inimitable Buster Poindexter.) Call 212-744-1600.

... Alan Cumming, Tony-winner and all-around artiste, is being presented at Carnegie Hall on February 8th. He will perform ditties from his new CD, "Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs." (Among these will be "You, You, You," from "The Visit," Noel Coward's "If Love Were All" and Sondheim's "The Ladies Who Lunch." Darren Criss, Ricki Lake and The New York City Gay Men's Chorus are also on hand to assist Alan with the sap. Call 212-247-7800.
... On January 28th Tony Kushner's new translation of Bertolt Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children," opens at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. For reservations go to
... Overwhelming demand has led to Off-Broadway's smash revival of "Ruthless!" to extend through April. And maybe even further into the season. This show, which first came to New York 24 years ago, has been described as a "mash-up of 'The Bad Seed', "All About Eve' and 'Gypsy.'" It runs a swift and riotous 90 minutes. Call 212-239-6200.
... It had to happen — Seth Sikes, the handsome and acclaimed singer who has made such a name for himself with his Judy Garland-themed shows, returns to his popular stomping ground, 54 Below, with — ta da! — "Seth Sikes Sings Liza Minnelli" on March 12th. As with his musical tribute to Judy, there is "camp" involved. No dramatic gestures or posturing or little get-ups. Seth just gets up there and sings his heart out. We are told not to expect "the usual Liza blockbusters" such as "Cabaret" or "New York, New York." Seth goes in for the lesser-known treasures. Call 646-476-3551. And March 12th just happens to be Miss Minnelli's 70th birthday.
... On June 20th The Friars Club honors Tony Bennett with its Entertainment Icon Award in New York. I know I don't have to explain Tony Bennett to you. He is the singer and gentleman par excellence who never goes out of style. Just ask Lady Gaga. Oh, now that I think of it, surely Lady G. will be on hand for Tony's big night, yes?

Try to get in on this grand event. Call 212-751-7272.
... Finally, if you want to take the family to something fairly new and altogether dazzling on Broadway, get over to the New Amsterdam Theater and see the lavish Disney fantasy, "Aladdin." The show goes from strength to strength with audiences, recently breaking the house record, with a gross of $2,095,363 on eight performances. With music and lyrics by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, this is a genie of a show that will not be back in its bottle for a long, long time.
TONIGHT: Try to catch Lorna Luft's final performance at NYC's 54 Below. Lorna is the talented daughter of producer Sid Luft and the incomparable Judy Garland. (I know — it's Garland-time, today!)

Lorna, who has been touring the USA and Britain with a production of "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" has a big, velvety voice and a big Broadway-style presence. (She has also tackled, and triumphed, in shows such as "Gypsy," "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and "Grease.") Lorna has played 54 Below previously, and audiences love her. She'll be back, if you miss her this time around.
BY THE way, I have received all sorts of compliments on my "Frank Sinatra article" that ran over the holidays. Nice, but — that's not "my" article! It was written by biographer to the stars Kitty Kelley, whom I knew well, back in day. Of course I have written about Francis Albert over the years, and gladly take credit for those tales. But this was Kitty's excellent work.

My holiday musings included reviews of the movie "Joy" ... the not-so-tell-all tome about the production of "Mommie Dearest" ... Joan Collins' racy new book ... the wisdom of Alexander Woollcott ... the beauty of Janet Leigh ... and the bi-polar wrap-up to TV's "Homeland." Even if I wanted to, I don't think I could have squeezed Sinatra in!
"HAPPY New Year — President Taft!" This is end of my first week of 2016 columns and I wanted to run the photo below. It has that New Year's Eve vibe. And we're still cheery. Sort of.

This screen-cap is from the 1957 film, "The Prince and Showgirl" starring Marilyn Monroe and Lawrence Olivier. At one point in the movie, which takes place in Victorian-era London, feisty showgirl Marilyn is weary of being pursued by Olivier — the prince regent of a fictional Balkan country — and she is incensed by his insults toward America. A little tipsy and a lot belligerent, she lifts her champagne glass and makes a glorious, patriotic toast — "To President Taft!" It's adorable, and so is she in this film that won her French and Italian awards as Best Actress.
In America, MM would never be honored, but Europeans considered her a great artist. Too bad she didn't spend her final summer on the welcoming Continent, rather than navigating the treacherous shoals of Hollywood.
Contact Liz Smith here.