Liza’s Back! (is Broken) continues at the Underbelly Festival, Southbank, London until 2 July.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Australian performer and female impersonator Trevor Ashley, returning to London once again in the persona of Liza Minnelli, delivers a brilliant tour de force performance that combines superb singing with wicked and outrageous comedy
Ashley brilliantly captures Minnelli. All the flamboyant gestures, giggles and gushiness are there and the voice is spot on – both in song and speech. However, there are times when the slurred voice muffles the punchlines to the quips and barbs. All aspects of the star’s troubled life are thrown into the mix – and mercilessly sent up.
The conceit of the show (created by Trevor Ashley, Max Lambert and Phil Scott) is to have Liza dreaming of being back on Broadway and singing the songs from the great musicals that she did not appear in.
Although according to her most of these shows were written for her but she turned them down. After adding some razzmatazz to ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ (Les Misérables) we learn that she refused the part of Fantine when she saw the costume – she was expecting Chanel and they were giving her Chernobyl.
Minnelli walked away from The Sound of Music when her rewrite of the story (a hilarious piece of comedy) was turned down, and she would have us believe that she was Michael Bennett’s inspiration for A Chorus Line. At least we get a taste of how it might have been during ‘The Music and the Mirror’, complete with an energetic dance routine.
Quite a few hairs on the back of the neck are raised when she steps into Norma Desmond’s shoes and delivers a powerful version of ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’.
The first half closes with a nod to mama as ‘We’re Off to See the Wizard’ leads into Wicked’s ‘The Wizard and I’.
Judy Garland returns twice later in the show when Minnelli morphs into her mother. Firstly we get to hear Garland as Mame in ‘If He Walked Into My Life’ and then in ‘Maybe This Time’ after Minnelli has given us ‘Cabaret’ with some wicked new lines.
A knockout ‘Some People’ from Gypsy earns Ashley a standing ovation before he gets Minnelli to add some comedy touches to ‘Send in the Clowns’.
The finale is a supercharged ‘New York, New York’ which receives more standing ovations from adoring fans.
Ashley also has superb musical backing from a seven-piece band.