As many as 200 persons walked out of Liza Minnelli's concert last night at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, apparently frustrated over problems with the sound system, according to center officials.
One caller to The Washington Post characterized the near-capacity audience as angry. "In 37 years of concert-going," she said, "this is the biggest disaster I've attended. I am outraged."
The performance was apparently marred with sound problems throughout the evening. Most of those who departed did so early in the show.
Minnelli, reached last night, said adjustments in the sound system during the show were "very successful." The show, she added, "was fun. There were six bows and two encores. They obviously liked it." Performances continue through Saturday.
When people in the audience appealed to the singer about the sound, she apparently misunderstood what they were complaining about. According to a center official, "There seemed to be a little back and forth" between Minnelli and at least one member of the audience. "At first she seemed to think it was a heckler. Later she realized there was a sound problem and apologized" to the audience.
Referring to her exchange with a member of the audience, Minnelli said, "It's a little scary to be on stage and have people scream at you. There was one man who went on and on and on. I said, 'Sir, I understand. But I came here to sing and not to listen to you.' "
The problem, according to Kennedy Center spokeswoman Laura Longley, involved Minnelli's band and the center's sound system. Because both the band and the monitor system on stage were very loud, officials turned the house system down and, later, off. As a result, the only sound reaching members of the audience was from on-stage equipment.
Before the system was turned down, the loud sound of the band drowned out the singer's voice and reportedly forced many in the audience to cover their ears.
" Minnelli was concerned," said Roni Gallion, the singer's secretary. After the show, Minnelli "asked if there was anything her sound people could do . . . She had a meeting to determine how to correct that problem."
Longley said the center has a technical call scheduled for today in the concert hall. "We have had other acts of this type before -- Sinatra, Steve and Eydie, Johnny Mathis -- and there have been no problems. So it can be fixed."
"We just have to fix it," said Minnelli. "I've never done this particular show, you know, an acoustical concert hall. It's more complicated a sound balance than we're used to . . . It will be corrected by tomorrow."