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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 7, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 40
Lorna Luft: A Personal Tribute to Judy Garland
Arts & Entertainment
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Lorna Luft: A Personal Tribute to Judy Garland

By Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

Judy Garland may have brought vaudeville back to the 'Palace,' but it was her daughter Lorna Luft who brought her beloved songs to the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. On September 30, Ms. Luft took over the stage in Olympia, and for over 90 minutes she shared with the audience her own presentation of her mother's legacy.

Starting with the lowering of a film screen, Judy Garland informs the audience that there were no songs with the name of her daughter in them. She explains that they took the theme song from her television show, The Judy Garland Show, and asked Johnny Mercer to write lyrics. The result was the song 'Lorna,' and as the celluloid Garland starts to sing, her voice invokes the live appearance of Ms. Luft.

The petite blond with the well-endowed legacy comes out belting in strong voice. With her husband at the piano leading an intimate musical ensemble, Ms. Luft explains to the audience what it was like to be the daughter of a legend.

Through personal stories and song, Ms. Luft takes the audience on a ride that presents a different side of a person she knew well; a person other than the one heard about in speculation or tabloid. Ms. Luft dispels rumors of her mother as being a 'tragic figure' by regaling to the audience little-known stories of Judy's impish sense of humor. Tales of practical jokes, sometimes crossing the line to mischievous, were shared, letting us see a glimpse into the more intimate and personal side of a mother/daughter relationship.

The songs that were shared were not only those found in the famed movie musical repertoire of MGM studios. Ms. Luft definitely covered the inherited songs of her parentage. She put her own energy and emotion into the hits: 'Rock-A-Bye Your Baby,' 'Chicago,' and 'Come Rain or Come Shine' sharing her inheritance, and expressing her own talented viewpoint through song. When she sang 'The Man That Got Away,' her mother's classic from the Sid Luft film A Star is Born, it seemed extra special, giving simultaneous tribute to the genius of both parents. The strength and beauty that was Judy Garland's voice is definitely present in her daughter, but Lorna has her own style and makes the music her own. In between personal anecdotes she sang Jerry Herman's poignant ballad, 'Time Heals Everything,' expressing her coming to grips with her mother's too-early death. Ms. Luft emotes with strong sentiment and personal understanding through the Stephen Sondheim song, 'Children Will Listen,' in a vignette where she tells the story of her mother's rise to fame to the grandchildren who will never personally know her.

It is in one of the final moments of the concert that Ms. Luft delivers a purely triumphant moment. Singing a duet with her mother (via celluloid), Ms. Luft presents a haunting version of 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' as her mother croons her signature classic, 'Over the Rainbow.' The result was something truly magical. Each voice was strongly unique, complementing one another perfectly. Slowly, they blended harmonizing so well that it was almost impossible to tell which voice belonged to which woman. The moment's beauty held the entire audience captivated, watching these two women musically salute each other with love and respect.

Lorna Luft was born the child of Judy Garland and movie producer Sid Luft. Her career began at age 4, when she appeared with her mother at New York's Palace Theatre. Finding her own way into show business, Ms. Luft's career covers extensive work in the theatre, cabaret, television, and film. In 1998, her memoir, Me and My Shadows, was published, giving a candid view into her turbulent and fascinating life. The book was adapted into an ABC miniseries, winning five Emmy Awards. The CD, Songs My Mother Taught Me, was released in 2007 on First Night Records.

© Eric can be reached at: Eric@sgn.org

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