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Lorna Luft: Songs My Mother Taught Me

The appealing singer invites comparison to mom Judy Garland in this bold tribute show. logo
Lorna Luft
Comparisons may be odious, but they're inevitable, especially when they're invited. That's what Lorna Luft does in a show at Feinstein's at Loews Regency called Songs My Mother Taught Me. At the kick-off of this bold act, Luft declares she's finally over her longtime reluctance to deliver music associated with her inimitable mom. Now, she means to embrace it in a generous gesture towards perpetuating the Great American Songbook that Garland was instrumental in establishing.

The problem is that when anyone, Luft included, takes on the Garland legacy, audiences who know the style, charm and drama of the original will hear those versions in their mind's ear and see those versions in their mind's eye -- unless the singer brings something to them that has the freshness, conviction and utterly natural talent which was Garland's hallmark from her teens through the tribulations of her last compromised years.

To give the appealing Luft her due, she has pipes of steel, mic technique on a par with her mother's, the drive Mom had to give the crowd everything she has to give, and an easy way about her that's completely convincing when she talks about her mother's soul-saving humor and devotion to her offspring (which also include Luft's brother Joey and half-sister Liza Minnelli).

She also performs generally acceptable versions of "I Feel a Song Coming On," "Rock-a-bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody," "You're Nearer," "The Man That Got Away" and a next-to-closing piece of material based on Garland's "Born in a Trunk" routine, during which Luft blares healthy snatches of many other Garland signature ditties.

On the other hand, Luft succumbs to the more than occasional pitch glitch and a vibrato so wobbly it seems to call for a crutch. Sure, Garland had a catch in her throat, but that's an entirely different thing and made all the difference between something heart-stopping and something merely appreciation-stopping.

Luft performs before a sturdy 10-man band, fronted by husband Colin Freeman, and beside a screen on which from time to time Garland footage is projected. When she gets around to the sultry Dorothy Fields-Jimmy McHugh "I Can't Give You Anything but Love," she has Garland sing the opening measures before joining in a duet. And by the time she finishes the act by singing a counterpoint song about a new star (Garland) in the sky while, on screen, Judy does "Over the Rainbow," she's not only in her mother's shadow but she's turned herself into a shadow of her mother.

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