Lorna Luft, Actress
Lorna Luft’s upbringing could hardly have been more star-struck. Born to the legendary Judy Garland and her film producer husband Sid Luft, Lorna had the entertainment business in her blood. And as if to confirm her status as showbiz royalty, the new baby girl’s godfather was one Francis Albert Sinatra.
She made her debut in the industry at the age of 11, singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in the 1963 Christmas edition of her mother’s television show. That episode also featured Lorna’s siblings Liza Minnelli and Joey Luft, and by the following summer she was appearing in the family’s concert tour. Culminating in a month-long residence at New York’s Palace Theatre, it was the last time the 14-year-old Lorna would star on stage with her mother.
Lorna made her Broadway debut four years later in the show Promises, Promises written by Neil Simon, a musical version of the film classic The Apartment that was best known for the song “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” She returned to the stage in 1981 for an American tour of They’re Playing Our Song and the following year made her big-screen debut in Grease 2 alongside Michelle Pfeiffer. By 1983 she was back on the New York stage, starring as Peppermint Patty in a production of Snoopy The Musical. But it was not all light-hearted singing and dancing as she also appeared opposite Farrah Fawcett in the tough drama Extremities.
Television guest appearances followed throughout the 80s before she once more went back to her stage roots. She spent several weeks in 1990 touring the United States in an extravaganza called Jerry Herman’s Broadway Years, before starring as Miss Adelaide in a US and subsequently world tour of Guys and Dolls that ran for nearly two years. In 1996 she was in Dublin, playing alongside Millicent Martin and Dave Willetts in a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, and she starred as Mama Rose in a University of Richmond staging of Gypsy.
In recent years, she’s been a regular performer in the UK and Ireland. For the 2006 festive season, she made an appearance in the British stage premiere of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: The Musical, an adaptation of the classic 1954 Bing Crosby movie. She reprised her role the following year for runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse and Millennium Centre in Cardiff before picking up the robes of the Wicked Witch of the West for a 2008 Christmas production of The Wizard of Oz at Salford’s Lowry Theatre.
She toured the UK in 2009 in a production of Hugh Whitemore’s play Pack of Lies, which co-starred Jenny Seagrove and Simon Shepherd, and in July that year paid tribute to her mother with a special recording for Radio 2 of Friday Night is Music Night. Lorna Luft and Friends, staged at London’s Mermaid Theatre, also included John Barrowman, Frances Rufelle and Linzi Hateley.
Lorna has maintained a concert career alongside her other performances, and has won huge critical acclaim for her shows, appearing at such prestigious venues as the Hollywood Bowl, the London Palladium and Madison Square Gardens. She surprised audiences at Carnegie Hall in 2006 when she made a guest appearance to duet with Rufus Wainwright on the song “After You’ve Gone,” providing a dramatic finale to his tribute concert Rufus Does Judy.
Lorna’s multi-media production, entitled Songs My Mother Taught Me, toured the UK in 2007 and was released as an album the same year, co-produced by Barry Manilow and Lorna’s Scottish husband, Colin R. Freeman. The show proved hugely popular with both audiences and critics: when it was staged in the US, Variety magazine hailed it as “a rousing, dramatically riveting musical event”, while the LA Times called her performance “heart-stopping and thrilling… an incandescent revelation not to be missed”.
Adding to her list of talents, in 1998 Lorna wrote a family memoir entitled Me and My Shadows, which was subsequently adapted as an Emmy award-winning television mini-series. And she’s also a tireless campaigner for charity, not least since being diagnosed with breast cancer herself in 2012. Vowing to fight the disease, Lorna is committed to being an avid fighter and fundraiser.
This year, Lorna has been back on the cabaret scene with a new solo show entitled Accentuate the Positive, as well as guest-starring in An Evening of Movies and Musicals. There’s little evidence of her giving up on what she calls “the family business.” But then, with showbiz in her blood, that probably shouldn’t come as any surprise.