Stage, screen legend Liza Minelli searches for the story in song

Sporting her trademark gamine crop and a shocking-pink jacket with a mandarin collar, Liza Minnelli made her entrance at the Hotel Grande Bretagne yesterday with as much sense of occasion as if she were stepping onstage. Petite but sassy, laughing with a hint of stage fright but flashing her celebrated megawatt smile, she is a beguiling mix of the fragile and the dynamic, alternately playing up and undercutting her aura of stardom. Minnelli met the press ahead of her performances at the Herod Atticus Theater tomorrow and Thursday night. She will sing favorites from the American repertoire of musicals and jazz, what American Ambassador to Athens Charles P. Ries described, in introducing her, as «quintessentially American music.» «I never thought of myself as a very good singer, but I am a good actress,» Minelli said. «Each song is like a little movie for me. I always look for songs that have an inside story,» she said, describing how she pairs each song with a page of details about the background of the woman singing it. «Whatever got her to the point where she says these words is my responsibility,» she explained. The actorly skill of establishing rapport with her audience was apparent from the first interchanges. It is de rigueur for visiting performers to praise Greece, but Minnelli somehow manages to make you feel she means it when she says: «This country is magic. It holds light, and romance and kindness, and lots of music and lots of dancing. If I go back far enough I’m sure there’s got be a bit of Greek in me. I landed here and I just started to smile.» A born performer, she obviously loves her work. «My soul dances when I’m on stage,» she said. «It’s like a dance with the audience.» She’s got plenty of work ahead of her. After Athens – she is extending her stay in Greece to 10 days – she goes to Moscow and then Montreal. And she’s writing a movie for several characters in which she plans to make use of what she called «the unknown talent of New York.» The concerts have been arranged by the Hellenic Festival, the American-Hellenic Arts Center of Halandri and the American Community School of Athens and the proceeds go to the Arts Center. For information about tickets see Venues.