Jared Kenwood and Lorna Luft
Lorna Luft’s Songs My Mother Taught Me
by Jared Kenwood
On March 19th, actress and singer Lorna Luft performed her solo concert for a sold out crowd at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach. The show, Songs My Mother Taught Me is an autobiographical tribute, paying homage to Luft’s mother, the legendary Judy Garland. Garland whose career consisted of films, radio appearances, television shows, and numerous concerts, is most notably known for her role as Dorothy in the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of OZ. Nearly forty-five years following her death, Judy Garland is still known as one of the world’s most beloved entertainers.
“People often ask me, “What is it like to be Judy Garland’s daughter?” Lorna Luft writes in her memoir, Me and My Shadows, “How do you answer a question like that? It’s hard being legends child. She’s everywhere I turn, like a shadow. It’s been wonderful, and terrible, and everything in between.”
For years Lorna tried desperately to escape her past. But being Judy Garland’s daughter and the little sister of Liza Minnelli, it was very difficult.
“I tried to run away from it all,” Lorna admits to her audience, “I dyed my hair purple, I sang rock and roll, and I spent way too many nights at studio 54. I did not want to be in anyone’s shadow. However, the further I ran the shadow was always there. Until one day I sat down and decided it’s time to make friends with the ghost.”
The show is a celebration of song, dance, and personal anecdotes. Nearly twelve years ago, with the help of Barry Manilow and writers; Ken and Mitzie Welch, Songs My Mother Taught Me was created. Following the performance, Lorna brought me backstage for an interview and shared with me a little bit about the Preproduction of the act and how the songs she chose from her mother’s repertoire.
“We went through my mother’s entire library,” Lorna recalled, “And we picked and chose and talked. It took six months that we really, really went through the library and with Ken and Mitzie directing it and writing every single word. It was put together like a theater piece.”
Lorna gives it her all to keep her mother’s legacy alive, belting out the Garland standards. Using a fascinating technique of projecting onto a screen, film and pictures are presented to the audience. There are even some moments in the show where Luft duets with Garland. It was very moving to watch Lorna sing along side of her mother. The final song of the show brought audiences and me to tears when Lorna and Judy performed a duet. Lorna sang a song called Shining Star, and her mother sung her signature tune Over the Rainbow. The song that is most identified with Judy Garland.
“I want people to remember her musicianship,” Lorna tells me. “I want people to remember her as a performer and an actor and I want them to remember her work. I think that’s what gives people joy and that is what she wanted people to look at her for.”
Dedicated to theater arts and encouraging young performers she shares some of her advice for Broward College students, who plan on pursuing an acting and singing career.
“If you want to go into this business, you have to learn to do it all. Don’t learn how to be vocal aerobics and stand on a stage and not do anything else but that. There is something in between the songs called dialogue and you have to be an actor and learn how to be choreographed.”
Songs My Mother Taught Me will go on for several more performances this August. Unfortunately there are currently no plans for any future Florida engagements. Lorna joke with me, “Florida is a little hot down here.”
A week following her concert, Lorna began treatment and surgery for breast cancer. On her Facebook page, her wall was flooded with words of support from her fans.
Songs My Mother Taught Me is available on CD from First Night Records and Lorna’s Memoir, “Me and My Shadows” is available for purchase from Amazon.com. Special thanks to Lorna’s husband Colin Freeman for arranging this interview.
Editor's note: This was Ms. Luft's final interview before she withdrew from public life to deal with her medical issues. We are grateful to TJGE Yahoo group member Jared Kenwood for bringing this exclusive interview to us.
And on behalf of all the members, in all the outlets of TJGE,
we wish Lorna Luft a speedy recovery and a happy and healthy future.