You can say this for Pia Zadora: She likes to work in a classy atmosphere. Her concert at the Celebrity Theatre of Anaheim on Sunday night was not exactly at the cutting edge of popular singing, but it did include some of the finest songs in the repertoire of American pop standards, accompanied by 30 or 40 of the best studio musicians in the world.
Add to that some stunning arrangements by the likes of Robert Farnon and Don Costa, an occasional solo from saxophonist Gary Foster and you have got the kind of musical environment that most singers only dream about.
Blessed with an attractive-sounding natural instrument that is particularly effective on balance, Zadora was considerably more appealing than she was as recently as a year ago, singing essentially the same program. In addition, she has begun to interact more confidently and more professionally with her accompanying musicians.
Part of Zadora's improvement may come from finally tapping the skill she gained during an extensive career in Broadway musicals as a very young performer. Add to that her perky, cute-as-a-button stage presence, and she would appear to have everything going for her.
But, as was the case with her choice of material, arrangements and musicians, Zadora's style seemed to have evolved more from a desire to be influenced by the very best performers than from any deep-seated need for her to express her uniqueness as an artist.
A dash of Liza Minnelli burst through on "Maybe This Time," a trace of Barbra Streisand sparked "For Once in My Life" and, strongest of all, the spirit of Judy Garland enlivened "The Man That Got Away."
All good models, of course, and Zadora can hardly be criticized for picking them. But her choice of the rousing "I Am What I Am" from "La Cage aux Folles" as a closing piece inevitably raised the thought that if the song is to have the significance she wants it to have, Zadora is going to have to exorcise some of the external influences and discover a little more of herself.