Lorna Luft On 'Songs My Mother Taught Me,' Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland
Lorna Luft, the daughter of Judy Garland and half-sister of Liza Minnelli, has been performing nearly all her life. Now, her multi-media production, Songs My Mother Taught Me, is now in its 11th year at Feinstein's in New York City. The award-winning production tells the story of Garland's music through Luft's eyes. "Every single song on the show has a reason, has a meaning, a story, has a — you know, it’s not like we didn’t really really think this out. Every single story in the show tells of how I came to know these songs and how I learned them and all that," Luft told Uinterview exclusively. "It's like carrying on the family business."
Born in Santa Monica, Calif., to Garland and Sid Luft, she made her television debut at 11 years old. She made her Broadway debut with her mother at age 16 in New York City's Palace Theater. From age 19 on, she graced the stage in productions such as Promises, Promises, Snoopy and Extremities.
- Q: What's the history of your show, Songs My Mother Taught Me, and the album that you made of it? - Uinterview
- A: We opened the show 11 years ago. We are still so grateful that everyone is still loving and standing ovations and all of that. The show was written by Ken and Mitzi Walsh, who wrote all of the Carol Burnett shows. And it took us six months to put the show together, we did it 11 years ago and here we are today, I’m talking to you, still doing the show at Feinstein's [in New York].
- Q: What are the most meaningful songs to you that your mother taught you? - Uinterview
- A: You know, all of them, that’s why we did the show. So every single song on the show has a reason, has a meaning, a story, has a — you know, it’s not like we didn’t really really think this out. Every single story in the show tells of how I came to know these songs and how I learned them and all that. It’s got wit and humor and all of that.
- Q: Do you have a memory of your mother that’s still most vivid to you, even to this day? - Uinterview
- A: You know, I mean I was 16 years old — I’ve got a lot of memories. I don’t have just one. I wrote a book so that when people really really wanted to know what it was like, I can instead of having these long long trying conversations, I can say, “Here, read this.”
- Q: Do you ever find that attention and sort of fascination with your mother difficult? - Uinterview
- A: No, I don’t find the attention or the fascination with her difficult. It was difficult before I did this show, before I came to peace with everything, before I was 40 years old, because I don’t think you get to really know your parents until you’re in your forties.
- Q: What was it about the show that helped you come to peace with your mother? - Uinterview
- A: It wasn’t really the show — I had written my book and I had done the mini-series already. I had already done, I guess, the groundwork and the footwork and all of the really hard stuff was already done. You know, watching the mini-series, editing it, doing all that — just getting the mini-series produced was an unbelievably difficult endeavor. So by the time this came along, this was a lot of joy. This was great.
- Q: You were first on Broadway at age 16. What was that experience iike? - Uinterview
- A: Well I was 14 when I was onstage with my mother at the Palace Theater. It was wonderful and scary and all sorts of things. It was everything that you think that being onstage would be. So you have all of that excitement and you have anxiety and you have “am I gonna do well? Is it going to be okay?” And it was, it was really wonderful.
- Q: Did she have any advice for you about how to handle all the pressure? - Uinterview
- A: No, there wasn’t pressure. There wasn’t pressure. You know, I got to be out of school for a summer. It was great!
- Q: Do you think you got the performance gene you got directly from her? - Uinterview
- A: Yeah, it’s like carrying on the family business.
- Q: A couple of years ago, you did the performance with Rufus Wainwright honoring your mother. What was that performance like? - Uinterview
- A: He called me, he was gonna do it and he said, “I would really like you to be a part of this because I’m paying tribute to her.” And it came from the right place. So yes, was it musically right for him? No. It wasn’t, I mean it wasn’t. Having all of her arrangements done in other keys takes sort of the excitement out of the arrangements. So it wasn’t musically — I mean Rufus is fantastic doing the stuff that he does, but he made a real goal of doing this, he made a real goal of doing all of this, and it all came from the right place.
- Q: Do you think the performance ended up being successful? - Uinterview
- A: I think he thought it was successful. I know the audience at Carnegie Hall was incredibly excited. But the good news was that my mother’s original album of Carnegie Hall spiked through the roof. Everybody went out and bought it.
- Q: You did a documentary for British television about your relationship with your sister. What’s it like these days? - Uinterview
- A: She was here at the show last night — it’s great.
- Q: Any plans to perform together anytime? - Uinterview
- A: One never knows. You know, I don’t know what we’re both doing tomorrow. We’re having lunch on Sunday, you know, that’s as far as I go.
- Q: So tell us a little about what’s coming up next for you? - Uinterview
- A: I'm going back home, then I go to Connecticut, then I go to Stowe, Vt. I don’t know what’s going on in February because I gotta get past January. But the most important thing is my husband and I went to a luncheon about a month ago for Guide Dogs of the Desert, because we live in Palm Springs. And you know, guide dogs are the most amazing creatures ever. It’s extraordinary what these dogs do for the seeing-impaired and for the blind. And we found when we went to the luncheon that they needed foster parents for the puppies. So we adopted a 14-week-old white lab, and we keep him until he’s 18 months. And then he will go back to Guide Dogs, and then he will go through his formal training and hopefully he will make it into being a full-fledged guide dog. That’s my priority, is I’m in puppy land.
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