The new work, which began performances July 10, has its roots in a 75-minute May cabaret show Luft performed at Feinstein's at the Cinegrill in Los Angeles, and has been expanded to include an intermission and a stronger "book," producer Susan Dietz previously told Playbill On Line.
"It's a theatre piece," Dietz said. As at Feinstein's, a ten piece band is led by Luft's husband, Colin Freeman.
Official opening was July 13, with performances originally announced to Aug. 3. Producer Dietz, who runs the 382 seat Canon, would like to see the show have an extended run in L.A., play San Francisco and then Broadway.
Songs is written and directed by Mitzie and Ken Welch, whose credits include writing shows for Barry Manilow and Carol Burnett. Dietz attended the spring cabaret show (seen in various venues elsewhere, too) and saw theatrical possibilities for it along the lines of At Liberty, the Tony Award-honored solo Broadway show Elaine Stritch created. Dietz encouraged the Welches to deepen the book. This show "is part of a journey" Luft has been taking for the past five years, a time that included the memoir and the miniseries, Dietz explained.
Dietz said she was impressed by the cabaret, and saw possibilities for it to more fully explore who Luft was and what the mother-daughter relationship was.
"What we really want to know is what a young girl in that environment felt and wanted, and how she stayed healthy," Dietz said. "I think if we deepen the book part of the show, we want to bring it to Broadway."
The show includes a 10-minute sequence written especially for Luft, in the style of the old "Born in a Trunk" medleys Garland was known for in her own act. Dietz said in the musical sequences in which Luft sings with her mother, it's hard to tell which voice is which.
"I think she spent a lot of her years repudiating the legacy," Dietz observed. "Writing the book allowed her to accept who she is. Now that she's accepted that, it's freed her up to explore more things. She's really come into her own."
"In Songs My Mother Taught Me, Lorna shares her personal story of growing up as the daughter of one of the world's most famous entertainers," according to the announcement. Her father is Sid Luft, the producer. Her half-sister is Liza Minnelli.
Luft sings the Garland repertoire with her mother's original arrangements, including such favorites as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "For Me and My Gal," "'I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "You Made Me Love You" and "The Trolley Song."
Also included in the show are mother-daughter duets sung against a backdrop of rare Garland footage and family album photos.
Lorna Luft has theatre, film, television, recording and concert credits. She made her professional debut on the Christmas episode of her mother's landmark CBS television series, "The Judy Garland Show." She shared the stage with her mother again, along with brother, Joe Luft, and performer John Bubbles in a summer concert tour. The highlight was "a legendary month-long engagement on Broadway at New York's famed Palace Theatre." This concert was recorded live and subsequently released on the ABC-Paramount label as "Judy Garland At Home At The Palace—Opening Night."
Luft studied at the Banff School of Fine Arts and returned to Broadway shortly after to star in Promises, Promises. She later starred on Broadway in Snoopy and Extremities, and toured nationally in the Jerry Zaks revival of Guys and Dolls (as Miss Adelaide). She is heard on the first full studio recording of the Gershwins' Girl Crazy, in the part created by Ethel Merman. She has also starrred in many regional productions, including The Boy Friend, Grease, Carnival, Little Shop of Horrors, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Girl Crazy and Mame.
In 1998 Luft became a best-selling author for her memoir, "Me and My Shadows: Living With The Legacy of Judy Garland" (Simon & Schuster), which was turned into an award-winning TV movie that earned Judy Davis an Emmy Award for playing Judy Garland. Luft served as co executive producer of the telepic. Luft will continue her career as producer with a film, currently in development, based on the life of Jimmy Slattery, better known as the Andy Warhol superstar, Candy Darling.
The Canon Theatre is 205 North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, CA. Tickets range $25-$50. For ticket information, call (310) 859-2830 or (213) 365-3500.