If you’ve ever wondered what life would be like in an alternate reality where Liza Minnelli starred in completely inappropriate roles, yet was still absolutely fabulous, ‘Liza’s Back! (Is Broken)’ is the show for you.
The brilliant comedy showcased over-the-top theatrics at their very best. Part stand-up, part dark comedy, part unabashed celebrity shaming, Trevor Ashley brought Liza Minnelli to the stage in an unabashedly unforgiving, yet completely hilarious way. Using clever soliloquies between songs, agitated expressions, and constant hand gestures, Ashley seemed like a funnier Nathan Lane crossed between an even more demented Ursula The Sea Witch, cracking jokes so dark you couldn’t help but laugh while quickly making the sign of the cross.
Top moments would have to be the dark jokes about the 12 dead Von Trapp children, frequent references to cocaine, and who could forget the joke about 'Les Miserables'? “I was expecting Chanel…I got Chernobyl!”
As for the songs – and there were many many!... ‘Send In The Clowns’ was definitely a showstopper, for all the right reasons. As the lights dimmed to a dark purple, and Ashley sat in a dark corner puffing away at a cigarette, illuminated only by the faintest glow, the audience was blessed with a truly remarkable performance. The best song of the night.
A few of the other songs seemed a little out of place, not quite generating the same pizazz the audience could have hoped for, but overall Ashley’s vocal talent was extraordinary. What was nice was the touching moments of sincerity between the humour, giving audiences a glimpse of Ashley’s completely sincere devotion to his muse.
Image © John McRae
Ashley could have used the stage more, as there were moments during the more upbeat songs which seemed a little flat, but he was wearing heels, and we can’t all prance around exhibiting dorky dad dance moves for several hours with a cocktail in one hand and a microphone in the other. The pacing could have been faster, the stage a little more accommodating, with longer reflection between songs, but there was no doubt Ashley was bursting with energy.
Concluding with a stellar performance of ‘New York, New York,’ Ashley left audiences gasping as to how on Earth he managed to pull such brilliant vocals out of the back pocket of his snazzy sequinned outfit.
Generally, multiple endings don’t work, but in some bizarre way, it did for Liza.
Finishing off with a jaw-dropping performance of ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina,’ Ashley had the audience in both hysterics and awe, all without smudging his mascara (although, admittedly, there was an interval and costume change!). The show could have worked a little better if the mini history lessons were replaced with more jokes, but the facts entwined with fiction didn’t diminish the quality of the show in any way.
For younger audiences, it would have helped to have a little more background knowledge of the various impersonations, however, each impersonation was well-executed and still enjoyable.
In fact, Ashley personalised Liza in a touching way that could only come from someone with the utmost respect for the legendary entertainer.