LIZA MINNELLI, 1946- . Triple crown achieved in May 1973 at age 27 with an Emmy for Liza with a Z. Preceded by a leading actress in a musical Tony for "Flora the Red Menace" in 1965 and a leading actress Oscar for Cabaret in March 1973. Followed by a leading actress in a musical Tony for "The Act" in 1977.
There is an entertainer gene. We know this because Liza Minnelli inherited it. She's purebred from Judy Garland and Vincent Minnelli, whose families go back five generations in the theatre or the circus. Liza came out strange-looking: eyes too big and too far apart, body gangly, nose out of proportion, speaking voice queer, singing voice unconventional. But her essence was undeniable. She was a performer. The entertainer gene exists. She proved it. She proves it. It's not about looks. It's about a specific energy that vibrates from the core of one's being.
The first time she set foot on a Broadway stage, the Tony was hers. It would be the first of five major awards procured by interpreting material by composer-lyricist team John Kander and Fred Ebb. It was 1965. Minnelli was 19. Though her voice "is not yet distinctive," wrote Howard Taubman in The New York Times review of "Flora the Red Menace," "she is going to be a popular singer, all right." Not yet distinctive? Perhaps her vocal thickness was a little too close to her mother's at such a young age.
That would change by 1973. Garland was four years dead and Minnelli finished the Triple Crown in a two-month span. Cabaret was first. "Liza Minnelli plays Sally Bowles so well and fully that it doesn't matter how well she sings and dances, if you see what I mean," wrote Roger Ebert, implying her voice and movement aren't as impressive as her general verve."In several musical numbers ... Liza [first name only, of course] demonstrates unmistakably that she's one of the great musical performers of our time. But the heartlessness and nihilism of the character is still there, all the time, even while we're being supremely entertained."