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Liza Minnelli can still belt them out

Liza’s back! And she’s coming to Roy Thomson Hall tonight.

Liza’s back! And she’s coming to Roy Thomson Hall tonight.

But tell the truth, did she ever really go away?

“I’ve been here all the time, darlin’,” Minnelli chimes in that distinctive voice from her apartment in Manhattan. “It’s just that now and then I’ve been a little hard to find.”

She has been a force to reckon with ever since she burst into stardom in 1963, at the age of 17, in an off-Broadway production of Best Foot Forward.

Along the way, there have been a lot of headlines, good and bad. She has won several Tonys, an Oscar, an Emmy and a Grammy, but she also spent a lot of time battling the demons of drugs and alcohol that killed her mother, Judy Garland, when Minnelli was only 23.

Toss in four marriages that ended in divorce, and enough illnesses to fell the armies of most small European nations, and it seems almost miraculous that her career has survived past her 63rd birthday last month.

“If you love what you do,” she says simply, “it’s not that hard. It’s interesting. It’s gratifying. Yeah, darlin’, it can be soul-wrenching, but that’s what people pay the money to see.”

Still, there was a time — not that long ago — when people wondered if they’d ever see Minnelli again.

A case of viral encephalitis in 2000 left her so incapacitated that doctors didn’t think she’d ever walk again, let alone dance.

She did a successful 2002 show called Liza’s Back in New York and London, but most people were saluting her resilience rather than actually cheering the talent on display.

But she kept training relentlessly, getting her body back in shape. Her appearances as the wacky Lucille Austero on Arrested Development taught a whole new generation about how funny she could be. Nowadays, Minnelli loves to live in the present. “I’m curious. I wonder where life’s going. Every morning I wake up and say, `What the hell is today going to bring?’”

 
 
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