Lorna Luft talks Puttin’ on the Ritz

Lorna Luft
Lorna Luft
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YOU’LL find Lorna Luft ‘puttin’ on the Ritz’ at the Playhouse, all this week. And the daughter of Hollywood legend Judy Garland (and half sister to Liza Minnelli) couldn’t think of a better place to be.

Not only is the bubbly star looking forward to becoming part of history in the making, performing in the Capital the week that Scotland decides its destiny, but also to celebrating her 17th wedding anniversary at The Dome, on George Street, one of her favourite haunts in the city.

Add that the actress and singer is still on cloud nine having just become a granny for the first time, albeit an incredibly glamorous one, and it’s safe to say that for the 61-year-old, life is good.

“Edinburgh is my favourite place in the world,” she declares. “I was here a couple of months ago doing a big concert at the Usher Hall and I know the city well.”

The last time Luft appeared at the Playhouse was in White Christmas, in 2007: “That was fun,” she chips in.

Bringing her back is Puttin’ On The Ritz, which opens this evening, and runs until Saturday. It’s a glittering spectacular, featuring many of the most famous song and dance moments from the golden age of Hollywood musicals, including songs by George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart and Cole Porter.

Luft appears throughout, performing numbers such as Zing Went The Strings of My Heart, as well as a selection, many sung by her mother before her. No surprise really, in 2008 Luft wowed the Queen’s Hall with her one woman show, Songs My Mother Taught Me.

“It fitted in so naturally with the concept of Puttin’ On The Ritz,” she says, “My connection with my mum is there every single day, but when you are doing a show like this, to put me into it is, as we say in America, a no-brainer. It just makes sense. Through these songs there’s a direct connection to everything that is going on around me. I fit in.”

The show includes old favourites such as Let’s Face The Music And Dance, I Got Rhythm and Cheek To Cheek. Each number is brought to life by choreography inspired by Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly.

“We go back into the world of the movie musicals that defined the genre...” says the star. “The original spectaculars written in the 30s and 40s, when there was depression and war. People were in a bad state in their emotional being because of what they were witnessing around them. So Hollywood took them on a two-hour ride of joy.

“Movies have always been escapism and I don’t think too much has changed. People are still being overwhelmed with what is on the news.”

Knowingly, she smiles, and 
teases, “Nothing has happened in Scotland lately, has it?”

Which brings us to the topic that has the eyes of the world on Scotland. Having just recently discovered her own Scottish heritage, Luft is thrilled to be performing in the Capital as the country makes it’s biggest decision in centuries.

“A couple of months ago I was in Scotland and a woman wrote to me, saying, ‘I’m related to you’.

“She had done a family tree going back to 1605 and had discovered that Judy Garland, on her mother’s side, was totally Scottish. That’s where my affinity with 
Scotland comes from and why I love Edinburgh so much.”

It’s an affinity she is desperate to share. She continues, “I was in Scotland with my best friend Barry Manilow recently, and I said, ‘Let’s get the train over to Edinburgh’ and showed a whole bunch of friends from America around. I just love the drama of the city, the 
history.”

That history will continue to unfold on Thursday, and Luft can not hide her delight at being in the middle of it.

“Whatever way the vote goes, it’s exciting. It’s historic. I don’t have an opinion because I don’t live here and would never claim to, but it is such an emotionally charged time, an amazing time to be in 
Edinburgh.

“I’m going to stay up and watch the coverage on television because that way I will be part of history. That is quite extraordinary.”

Of course, if you do want to escape the Yes/No rhetoric for a couple of hours, Luft insists the Playhouse is the place to be.

“Our producer loves what he does and in Puttin’ On The Ritz recreates the glamour of Hollywood. It’s basically a salute to the composers, lyricists and choreographers of the time. We have 15 dancers and six singers which ensures that when you go in to see it, you are guaranteed to leave the theatre really happy.”

If it’s a nostalgic journey filled with pizzazz you’re looking for this week, the Playhouse, it seems, is the place to be.

Puttin’ on the Ritz, Playhouse, Greenside Place, tonight-Saturday, 7.30pm, £17.90-£36.40, 0844-871 3014