Sunday, June 05, 2016
Liza with a Z
Directed by Bob Fosse, Liza with a Z is a concert TV special for Liza Minnelli as she performs songs from the film Cabaret that Fosse directed and Minnelli starred in along with songs written by Fred Ebb and lyricist John Kander. Shot on May 31, 1972 at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City, the film showcases Minnelli singing and dancing to an audience in all-out musical with numbers ranging in different musical styles with Fosse providing choreography. The result is a sensational and dazzling concert TV special from Bob Fosse.
Considered one of the greatest performers in entertainment, Liza Minnelli is someone that can do it all as she can sing, dance, act, and crack some jokes. In early 1972, Minnelli starred in the film version of the hit Broadway musical Cabaret which was directed by Bob Fosse as it drew her rave reviews and would give an Academy Award for Best Actress. As an encore of sorts, Minnelli, Fosse, and the songwriting duo of Fred Ebb and John Kander would create a show largely on her talents. The show itself wouldn’t just be about Minnelli the performer but also a woman sharing bits of her real self onstage where she would tell jokes between a few songs.
The selection of song choice doesn’t just consist of songs by Ebb and Kander but also interpretations of standards, show tunes, and a few contemporary songs like I Gotcha by Joe Tex and Son of a Preacher Man sung famously by Dusty Springfield. All of which play into Minnelli’s own personality and her own diverse take on these songs where the contemporary numbers dwell more into rock, pop, and soul while the rest are more fitted into traditional pop and jazz with the aid of music coordinator Marvin Hamlisch. The show also includes a medley devoted to Cabaret as it’s not just about Minnelli singing these songs. It is also the presentation of the show where she’s joined by dancers dancing along all to Bob Fosse’s intricate and racy choreography which adds a lot to many of these musical numbers.
Instead of having the concert special shot on videotape, which was the standard at the time. Fosse would shoot the special on 16mm film with the aid of cinematographer Owen Roizman in the way much of the stage sets are lit and shown. Even as Fosse would shoot many of the performance not just at the stage but also from the side with high and low angles to see what the audience at the show would see. Especially in the way the sets that are created by production designer Robert Randolph and art director Sabina Daley are shown to play into each different set of the performance as well as the costumes worn by the many dancers that are designed by Frank L. Thompson with Minnelli’s costumes provided by Halston. Each set would have Minnelli sport different looks of sorts courtesy of hair stylist Simon Scudera and makeup designer Christina Smith.
Adding to the energy and performances is the editing of Alan Heim as it says a lot to how Minnelli reacts to the audience as well as in the way she performs a song. Sound mixer Robert C. Fine, with sound consultant Andy Potvin for its 2000 reissue, would do nice work with the way the music sound with Potvin providing some additional mixing for the remastered edition of the special.
Liza with a Z is a spectacular concert TV special from Bob Fosse that features in the incomparable Liza Minnelli. Not only is the special a must-see for fans of Minnelli but it’s also an overlooked gem of sorts from Fosse who would create a lavish presentation that plays into Minnelli’s stature as an entertainer. In the end, Liza with a Z is a fabulous concert TV film from Bob Fosse.
Bob Fosse Films: Sweet Charity - Cabaret - Lenny - All That Jazz - Star 80 - The Auteurs #56: Bob Fosse
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