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Paulanne Simmons

Lorna Luft Sings a Tribute to Her Mother, Judy Garland



"Songs My Mother Taught Me"
Kingsborough Community College
2001 Oriental Boulevard, Brooklyn
Oct. 15 at 8pm
Tickets: $30 (718) 368-5596 or www.OnStageAtKingsborough.org
By Paulanne Simmons Oct. 10, 2011

Lorna Luft.

Lorna Luft, who will perform "Songs My Mother Taught Me," a tribute to her mother, Judy Garland, at Kingsborough Community College on October 15, says she wouldn’t touch her mother’s songbook until she was forty years old.

"It takes a long time to feel comfortable with one’s heritage," she says. "For a long time I ran away from it. It was overwhelming and frightening."

Singing her mother’s songs was doubly challenging for the actress and singer, who lost her mother when she was sixteen and "didn’t have her there to guide me, to say what to do and how to react." But fortunately, Luft also believes that life is "not about falling down but about the way you get back up." So eleven years ago she took the plunge.

In "Songs My Mother Taught Me" Luft combines the repertoire that audiences associate with her mother and personal memories that speak of humor and love. But despite the title, Luft does not claim that her mother sat her on her knee and taught her how to sing "The Man that Got Away" or "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby." Rather these are the songs she heard her mother sing in concert or rehearse at home around the piano, where, says Luft, "I had the best seat in the house."

"Singing was my mother’s job," Luft explains. "She didn’t sing around the house because home was where she could be herself." And that, Luft continues, is what makes home life so important to performing artists like her mother and herself.

If Judy Garland didn’t actually teach her daughter all those songs, the woman whom Luft calls "the greatest female entertainer in the world" did teach her how to listen to an original. Luft personally admires "anyone who stops me in my tracks," people such as Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Laura Niro, Dusty Springfield, The Beatles, Amy Winehouse, Barbra Streisand.

Following in her mother’s footsteps may not have been inevitable, but Luft does believe entertainment can be just like any other family business.

"I grew up in hotels. I grew up on the road. I grew up all over the world. That was my normal," says Luft. So perhaps it should not be too surprising that Luft, the daughter of producer Sid Luft and singer/dancer/actress Judy Garland would one day step on the stage herself.

Luft’s own children, however, weren’t interested. Her son, Jesse, is a money manager; and her daughter, Vanessa, wants to be a cook. Perhaps from her own experiences, Luft is sensitive to the needs of children of famous parents.

Luft believes that "when you’re trying to find your own footsteps, it’s difficult to have someone walk into a room before you do, to be addressed with a daughter or sister before your name." And she remembers that when she was on the road with "Guys and Dolls," her son said, "Don’t do this again, and I said okay."

But when she’s on the stage, Luft gives 120 percent. "I strive to give an audience everything they wanted when they bought their ticket. My husband and children are my first home. The stage is my second home."

Luft intends to be on the East Coast for a while. Several gigs are in the works or already planned. She will be appearing at Town Hall on Oct. 28 in "A Tribute to Judy Garland and Gene Kelly," part of the Seventh Annual Broadway Cabaret Festival, giving her usual 120 percent.

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