by: Paulanne Simmons
Although Lorna Luft remembers that she “actually spent days” in the room that now houses 54 Below “and they said I had a great time,” she is actually making her debut at the club this season in a show packed with Johnny Mercer hits, songs that have personal significance and holiday tunes.
Although Johnny Mercer composed songs, he is best known as a lyricist, and Luft believes that lyricists often “get the short end of the deal” while the composers get all the credit. Her tribute to the lyricist included “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home,” “Something’s Gotta Give” (even though he actually wrote the music too), “Blues in the Night” and a particularly vengeful version of “Goody Goody.”
Luft, who has spend her life in the shadow of her mother, Judy Garland and sister, Liza Minnelli, has reason to sympathize with those who don’t get the recognition they deserve. And she continued the theme with a medley of songs from “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever,” a musical that was unsuccessful twice on stage and once as a movie, even though the film starred Barbra Streisand.
This led quite seamlessly to a medley of songs that became standards even though they were never even nominated for Academy Awards, culminating in “New York, New York,” which she said, “a relative of mine keeps singing.”
Luft is clearly part of entertainment royalty and she shared many of her childhood experiences: finding her home lit for Christmas, thanks to studio decorators; learning popular songs while her mother (a terrible driver) wove through traffic on their way to school.
But for those who love to stroll down Memory Lane, the highlight of the evening was when Luft showed a film of herself on her mother’s television show singing “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” sitting on Jack Jones’ lap while her mother and sister watch from the audience. By the end of the evening the audience at 54 Below joined in, and a good time was had by all hoping for a “White Christmas.”
Luft has the family gift of knowing how to form an almost instantaneous attachment with the audience. She has a warm and effervescent personality. She also has that powerful voice that knows how to manage even the tricky parts of songs. She graces the stage at 54 Below just long enough to make a lucky few very, very happy.
54 Below (254 West 54 Street – Cellar) NYC (Dec. 17.18)