Photo Credit: Stephen Sorokoff

Lorna Luft Feinstein’s Aug 10, 2019 9:30 PM

Lorna Luft returned to Feinstein’s 54 Below Aug 8-10 with her spirited show which showcased the music from her teenage years, 1963 to 1967. She was supported by her capable band: Colin Friedman on piano, Joshua Priest on drums, Peter Calo-guitar and vocals, Jim Donica on bass and unbeknownst to me until I arrived, David Sabella, vocals (also Editor in Chief of Cabaret Hostspot). The music of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Mammas and The Pappas, The Birds, Bob Dylan and others were woven together with Luft’s stories of growing up in Hollywood and being the “kid of a movie star.”

Luft bounded on stage for the opening number All My Loving (John Lennon and Paul McCartney). With solid backing from her band, she established the upbeat tone of the evening to come. After the song , she spoke of her goal for the night of just “having fun.” Luft found a lovely vocal quality in the next song Make Your Own Kind of Music (Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill). She spoke of her genuine happiness to be back onstage at Feinstein’s and talked about her mother (Judy Garland and (half) sister (Liza Minelli) and the music that was theirs.  As a young person coming up in that talented family, she felt she didn’t have her own music. But, when three brothers were discovered by a record company and renamed “The Beach Boys,” Luft began to feel that she was finding the soundtrack for her life. The Beach Boys Medley that followed brought back the spirit of that time. The band provided gorgeous 5 part harmonies on songs like God Knows What I’d Do, Surfer Girl and In My Room (Brian Wilson, Tony Asher).

Luft followed this set with the story of how her mother (Judy Garland!) came back from her gig at The Palladium in London in 1964 and talked about these four boys she would just adore. When Luft finally did hear the music of The Beatles she felt that she finally had found her music apart from her mother and sister. The next two songs Eight Days a Week and Here There and Everywhere (John Lennon and Paul McCartney) were spirited and the band helped recreate the Beatle’s sound. By now the audience was deeply connected to Luft’s musical journey. Her ability to tell the stories of her life and connect with her audience made the evening a joyous event. She talked about when Dylan “went electric” and paid homage to him and Pete Seeger in a medley of Mr Tambourine Man and Turn!Turn!Turn! which featured an outstanding guitar solo by Peter Calo.

One of Luft’s funniest stories had to do with going to (Mamma) Cass Elliot’s house in Laurel Canyon with a producer friend to drop off a script for her. They found Cass languishing in her bedroom saying how the strict diet she was on left her without the energy to move a muscle. When she did get up to say good bye to her visitors she kicked out from under the sheets a 10 pound box of chocolates. Cass just shrugged off the moment to Luft. This story set up The Mamma’s and The Pappa’s song California Dreamin (Michelle Giliam and John Phillips). Luft followed this with a song that Cass Elliot made famous-Dream A Little Dream of Me (Gus Kahn, Fabian Andre,Wilbur Schwandt). Again, Luft’s voice was particularly clear and touching on the ballads.

The latter part of the evening was dominated by The Beatles: In My Life (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Something (George Harrison) and Here Comes The Sun (George Harrison). Luft spoke of her deep love of George Harrison as being a “man of peace.” The joy in her face on Here Comes The Sun made you feel you were watching the sun rise. The Beatles Finale (John Lennon and Paul McCartney) included great songs such as The Long and Winding Road, All You Need is Love and Hey Jude with the audience singing along on the “Na-na-na -Hey Jude!”section with great enthusiasm.

At the end of the evening, Luft talked about her 7 year battle with cancer and had the audience stand for anyone they knew who had fought this battle. This brought her to her last medley I’ll Be Here Tomorrow (Jerry Herman) and I’m Still Standing (Bernie Taupin and Elton John). As Luft began the piece and you saw the vulnerable survivor standing in front of you, one could sense the presence of her mother. The audience was already on their feet but the standing ovation that followed was heartfelt and enthusiastic.

What made the evening work so well was Luft’s genuine connection to the stories and music from this vital part of her adolescence.  Her carefully honed ability to tell the stories of her life and reach her supportive audience pulled us deeper and deeper into her personal and musical journey. The excellent support she got from the band  brought new energy to these  songs which we all know and have our own associations with.  Acting as a conduit for our collective relationships with this magnificent music and the joy of the evening, Luft gave her audience an evening to remember.