“What good is sitting alone in your room?” goes the famous line from Cabaret, the show written by John Kander and Fred Ebb starring the icon that is Liza Minnelli. And as we delve into the life and times of Minnelli, we discover that there is no phrase more appropriate for this workaholic showgirl.
Written by Richard Harris, who also penned the screenplay for Stepping Out starring the Hollywood-born diva, it’s a cleverly structured piece of narrative between three versions of Liza; young Liza, Cabaret-famed, stockings-wearing Liza, and aged but content Liza.
From being born into a spectacularly A-list family, all aspects of Liza’s life are laid bare, including her strained relationship with her mother, Judy Garland, as she struggles with alcohol and her own performance nerves, to her parents’ multiple marriages, and then to her own multiple marriages and her battle with not being able to perform when her health comes under scrutiny.
Director Phil Willmott has guided his trio of leading ladies care and love, so much so that you can see the actors’ respect for Minnelli in all of their performances. Felicity Duncan, the oldest of three and bearing a dramatic resemblance to Liza as she is now, provides a wise outlook on her past, and battles with the youngest Liza, Stephanie Ticknell-Smith to take off her rose-tinted glasses when observing her mother’s problems. Sabrina Carter as Liza 2, however, acts as a bit of a dark horse in the first half, acting as the voice of Garland, but makes a dramatic ending for Act One as we see the Liza that is loved so well come into fruition in true Cabaret style. All three women possess amazing voices, and all have obviously studied the performance style of Minnelli lovingly.
Dotted with some of Minnelli’s most famous songs as underlying scores to the monologues, but never really getting the whole performances we wish for, but we are rewarded with an amazing set of songs at the end of the evening, also choreographed in the Fosse style by Racky Plews.
Colin Mayes’s minimal yet striking design accompanies the writing perfectly, making us feel like we are at one of her concerts at the Palladium, but in a much more intimate setting. Lighting and sound design also play confident parts in the evening, as does Musical Director Neil MacDonald, who doubles as the male voices in the story.
All in all, Liza Liza Liza is a small but perfectly formed evening of entertainment, featuring stunning female performances, keeping the audience captivated with the fast-paced script and emotional plot lines, and some great musical numbers too. This is my favourite off-West End show I’ve seen all year, and can only hope it gets the chance to play to larger audiences, too.
Liza Liza Liza is playing at the Tabard Theatre until 29 September. For more information and tickets, see the Tabard Theatre website.