The Songs Her Mother Taught Her

Lorna Luft honors her mother, Judy Garland, in an emotional one-woman show

Lorna Luft’s show business career began at age 11 alongside her famous mother, Judy Garland, who died a tragic death before Luft finished her teens. On September 30, during CenterFest 2011 at Olympia’s Washington Center for the Performing Arts, the vocalist will share “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” a tribute to Judy Garland.

After Garland’s untimely death, Luft went on to achieve her own fame as an actress, recording artist, producer and best-selling author of “Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir,” published in 1999. Many friends—including Barry Manilow, whom she calls her “best friend for 40 years”—urged her to create this show, which the Los Angeles Times described as “heart-stopping and thrilling—an incandescent revelation not to be missed.”

In a recent interview, Luft expressed her feelings:

You said that at first the idea of doing this show was too overwhelming and personal. What made you finally feel ready?
We all get to a time in our lives where we feel comfortable with our past. I was in my late 40s when I started the book. Then I made the mini-series, which was very successful. We were nominated for 13 Emmy awards and we won five. I thought, okay, now I can really look at this amazing library of music and be okay with it, be comfortable, and pay tribute and just make sure that I put a show together that was the truth, that was entertaining.

It must have been an intensely emotional experience, the first time you did the show. How do you get through it time and time again?
It’s not how I get through it, but how the audience gets through it. You see, I know what’s coming next. When I can see the white Kleenex coming out I know I’ve done my job. I’ve told the truth. I’ve done what I’m supposed to do.

How long did it take to create, and what were some of the challenges?
About six months. We had to go through an immense plethora of material—movies, radio shows, and television shows. I was introduced to Ken and Mitzie Welch who had written all of the Carol Burnett shows. I needed somebody to help me write and direct. These two extraordinary people did that, and it was a fantastic journey.

What will the audience take away from this show?
They will take away a personal story about a mother and a daughter. This show pays tribute to one of the greatest entertainers and legends of this business, and I was lucky enough that she was my mom. It’s not just a concert of a bunch of songs thrown together. It has a beginning, middle, and end. It’s a mini-theatrical show. I guarantee you’ll have a great time.

Candace Brown