Stepping out of the shadows

Cabaret: In her new show, Lorna Luft finally acknowledges her mother, Judy Garland
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The Independent Culture

Lorna Luft has laboured under the double whammy of being known as "Judy Garland's other daughter". Until a few years ago, Luft, who has made a career as a mid-level singer (nightclubs, touring companies and replacement casts), wouldn't go near her mother's catalogue. But from 1998 she has strengthened the identification with a bestselling memoir ( Me and My Shadows), a mini-series based on it, and a show, Songs My Mother Taught Me, that has toured America and will open tomorrow at her former home, the Savoy. All three make clear that being Garland's daughter and Liza Minnelli's half-sister was no musical comedy.

Lorna Luft has laboured under the double whammy of being known as "Judy Garland's other daughter". Until a few years ago, Luft, who has made a career as a mid-level singer (nightclubs, touring companies and replacement casts), wouldn't go near her mother's catalogue. But from 1998 she has strengthened the identification with a bestselling memoir ( Me and My Shadows), a mini-series based on it, and a show, Songs My Mother Taught Me, that has toured America and will open tomorrow at her former home, the Savoy. All three make clear that being Garland's daughter and Liza Minnelli's half-sister was no musical comedy.

Garland did think Lorna had the best voice in the family - or so she said in one of her last interviews. But the idea that her mother loved her seems to be necessary to Luft's confidence in her ability to inspire affection in others. Flipping into chat-show mode, she tells of being in a restaurant when Julian Lennon walked by, and they could both hear diners saying, "Doesn't he look like his father!" Scrunching her mouth into an expression of wry woe, she quotes her remark to him: "It never gets better - it just gets different." Then, "we started to laugh," - she demonstrates - "and he said, 'I like you!' and I said, 'I like you!'" Luft squeezes her body with her upper arms to mime mutual hugs.

It's hard not to see this cuddly indignation in a concert Luft gave called "Not Even Nominated", made up of great movie songs that never reached the shortlist for an Oscar. The premise was a specious one, but it served to make the point that lots of marvellous works (or people?) are denied the attention and praise they deserve.

Nor is it surprising that Luft "felt honoured to be able to consider a friend", that mistress of manipulation, the late Princess of Wales. "I run in Hyde Park every day, and now, when I reach Kensington Palace, instead of awe and wonderment, there's a touch of sadness. I had to teach my daughter all about her. She was such a positive force - she made a difference." I ask what that was, thinking of Aids sufferers and landmines. "She made the Royal Family human." As with her mother, Luft's Diana sound bites don't seem to come out of the same apple. One minute, she's delighting in the Windsors' sex and family secrets; the next, in response to another question, looking down her nose at newspapers that endlessly featured Diana for the vulgar and cynical purpose of making money.

In Songs My Mother Taught Me, Luft sings "You Made Me Love You", "The Man That Got Away", "For Me and My Gal" and other songs identified with her mother. When she started her nightclub career, she was advised to sing them, but refused because she didn't want to cash in on her mother's name. What has changed? "Then, it was too soon after my mother's death. It was too painful. But now, enough time has passed."

'Songs My Mother Taught Me', Savoy Theatre, London WC2 (0870 164 8787) to 28 August

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