The Theatreguide.London Review
Songs My Mother Taught Me
Savoy Theatre Summer 2004
Like it says on the label, Lorna Luft talks about and sings songs associated with her mother Judy Garland. That's what's advertised and that's what you get.
What you don't get is either an imitation or evocation of Garland or much in the way of news or gossip.
Luft's picture of Garland is strictly as the loving mother. The professional biography is zipped through in a medley, the addictions are alluded to as briefly as possible and the romantic entanglements not at all, and the anecdotes are all of family fun.
There's a projection screen, of course, filled mainly with home photos of Judy and her kids, and only occasionally with performances, mainly from Garland's 1963 TV series.
The inevitable duet with the projected image comes surprisingly early in the show, as Luft harmonises with Garland singing 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love' (and of course your focus is entirely on the screen, hardly noticing that live woman off to the side singing along.)
So quickly and vaguely does she cover her mother's career that Luft has room for a digression on the Rat Pack, with salutes to her godfather Frank, her neighbour Dean and her mentor Sammy.
Throughout sister Liza Minelli's performing career, whenever a drunk shouted 'Sing Over The Rainbow' she'd reply 'It's been done,' and Luft is wise and tasteful enough not to attempt it, letting the finale be another duet in which she sings a different song in counterpoint to the iconic image.
Luft has a pleasant enough voice, with only very occasional echoes of her mother in the vibrato and nasality. And unlike her sister Liza, she has none of her mother's physical mannerisms (the braced legs, the flailing arms).
Her singing and performing style might be called generic lounge singer. Indeed, were it not for the Garland connection, Luft's act is very much what you might encounter on a good cruise ship or a smaller Las Vegas hotel.
And if that's what you want from an evening at the theatre, here it is.
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