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Liza Minnelli at Ventura's Rubicon Theatre

July 20, 2009 |  5:49 pm

LIZA-AND-BILLY Start spreading the news: Liza Minnelli made an appearance last night in Ventura.

We’re not quite sure how she found it – we had no idea people who hang out in New York most of the time had even heard of the coastal city – but there she was, resplendent in black, at the gala premiere of “The Best Is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman.”  

Perhaps it was the blinding light reflected off the sea of sequins outside the Rubicon Theatre that served as a Kleig light marker, leading Liza (we like to think we're on one-name basis with her, kinda like Madonna and Cher) to the 212-seat venue-in-a-former-church on Main Street.

The Oscar-, Emmy-, Tony- and Golden Globe-winning actress quietly made her way into the theater from a side door, slipping past dapper men in tuxes and women bedecked in sequins and furs – Yes, furs. In July. In the 82-degree heat. – to take her seat among Ventura’s sweaty elite.

Liza's connection to the show was simple: Her friend and longtime collaborator Billy Stritch is music director and performer in the revue-style show. So she served as chairwoman of the gala opening.

Audience members with just the right seats could catch a glimpse of Liza bopping her head, clicking her fingers in time to the music and even singing along with the performers on stage: Stritch, Lillias White, Jason Graae, Sally Mayes, David Burnham and Julia Murney. At one point midway through the show after White hit the final note in “The Oldest Profession” from “The Life,” Liza leaped to her feet to give the Tony winner a hearty standing O.

Afterward, nearly 300 people trekked over to the Marriott Ventura Beach Hotel for the opening night party. There, they received a special treat: The guest of honor and her pal Stritch performed “He’s Funny That Way” from her 2009 Tony-winning Broadway show “Liza’s at the Palace.” OK, so “Liza’s at the Marriott” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but we're sure no one was complaining.

“The Best Is Yet to Come” runs through Aug. 2. (Sorry, we’re told Liza probably won’t be attending future performances there.) You can read Charles McNulty's review of the production here.

--Lisa Fung


You heard it here first: Liza's coming to town

Photo: Liza Minnelli with Billy Stritch. Credit: Rod Lathim