Liza Minnelli, Alan Cumming turn friendship into hit show

Thu Mar 14, 2013 1:30am EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - By merely striding onto a stage, Liza Minnelli transformed a Manhattan concert hall into a cabaret on Wednesday, as the legendary entertainer teamed up with Broadway veteran Alan Cumming for the first night of a two-night gig reprising a show the pair put on last summer at a Fire Island nightclub.

"Liza coming to Fire Island - can you imagine? It was like a papal visit," Cumming said, recalling the friends' two shows that spawned the sold out shows at Town Hall on Wednesday and Thursday.

"I think this is probably the first time that a show has transferred from Cherry Grove, Fire Island to Broadway," Cumming said, referring to the almost exclusively gay beach town where the friends appeared during a July heat wave, cooling down between sets in a walk-in refrigerator.

The concert served as a "Cabaret" reunion of sorts, as Minnelli, still closely associated with her Oscar-winning performance as Sally Bowles in the 1972 film of the iconic musical, and Cumming, who won a Tony award as the emcee in the acclaimed Broadway revival more than two decades later, sang duets including the title song, "Cabaret."

But the pair toyed with sexual identity, as Minnelli, who has a huge gay following, and Cumming, who is married to his male partner, switched their "Cabaret" roles - she sang "Willkommen," usually sung by the emcee, while he sang "Mein Herr," one of Sally's big numbers.

Minnelli's husky intonations contrasted dramatically with Cumming's reedy tenor for their duets, which were augmented by little waltzes and plenty of banter and embracing.

"We're just crazy about each other," Minnelli told Reuters after the show. "It felt very intimate, like being with a bunch of friends."

Before the show, producer Daniel Nardicio said "It had always surprised me that no producer had thought to put these two long-time friends on stage together ... That's what people saw on the stage on Fire Island - two good friends having fun. I dare say that this show is a celebration of friendship."   Continued...

Singer Liza Minnelli and actor Alan Cumming perform during their one night only performance in New York, March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri