★★★★ | Liza, Liza, Liza at The Tabard Theatre, London
Meine Damen und Herren, Mesdames et Messieurs, Ladies and Gentleman! I bring you not one, not two but three Liza Minnellis, all on one small stage for your delight and delectation.
Acclaimed stage and screen writer Richard Harris (Outside Edge, Stepping Out) has penned a brilliant new play which is a tribute, a raucous examination and a celebration of all things Ms Minnelli. More than that, it’s also a reflection on what it is to be human in a mad world and although we may not all be from such stellar circles as Liza, there’s much to identify with.
The set is glitzy and bright with a giant ‘Liza!’ sprawling across it, partly obscuring the piano and dashing pianist and on limps Liza, post hip replacement with a cane. Within seconds the audience is rapt as she wisecracks her way to the chaise longue. The play cleverly combines three incarnations of Liza: Firstly, the gauche and enthusiastic teenager trying hard to make her mark on a world ready to judge her against her mother and balance a home life mad enough to drive a nun to blasphemy. Secondly: the chain smoking ‘middle’ Liza hurtling into a self destructive spiral of drink, drugs and unsuitable men as her career both soars and plummets and finally: the older wiser and more cynical Liza who’s more than able to laugh at herself and her own foibles and failings. Oh what a dirty laugh it is too. All these Lizas are of course, overshadowed by the dominating influence of Judy Garland who begins the play shouting through from a dressing table at the back of the stage.
Multiple lovers and failed marriages, battles with weight, booze, pills and depression: it’s not hard to see what it is that gay men seem to feel such an affinity with her about. What Harris and the fantastic cast of three actresses manage to do is to present a life story that contains no self pity, plenty of humour and a hell of a lot of spirit. There are killer one liners, great vocal performances (but not too many; it’s not a musical) and some very credible acting that rises above being just cheap impersonations. The three actresses all manage to own the stage, which is a feat in itself.
Liza, Liza Liza runs until the 29th of September
Buy tickets here: http://www.tabardweb.co.uk/liza
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.