The Lyric Theatre in Soho has shown a special love for ‘concert-shows’ since the opening of Thriller Live in 2006, celebrating the music of Michael Jackson without a specific storyline. Taking a break from Thriller Live for one night only, Liza (On An E), touring the UK from Australia, took over the King of Pop’s London stage and celebrated the life, songs and scandals of music legend Liza Minnelli.
As an impersonator it can be very hard to get a show like this on its feet, as the love that so many people bear for such legends can turn to hate when faced with a ‘wannabe’. Especially with a celebrity who is still alive, some audience members might find an imitator tacky – like getting a cold Happy Meal instead of a Byron burger.
However, Trevor Ashley’s imitation of Liza Minnelli is hilarious, on-point and very detailed. The fact that it is a man dragging up for one of the world’s biggest drama queens eases any tension in the audience, and we are pushed into fits of laughter as he bosses his band around, drinks several glasses of wine on stage and tells supposed anecdotes of Liza’s troubled childhood as a superstar-child, her career ups and downs (and especially film flops) and her famous, disastrous marriages. Liza becomes lovable and extremely comical and Ashley really knows how to engage his audience.
It has to be said, however, that if you are not a big Liza fan then a lot of the jokes will be lost on you. Whereas the big crowd would shout out clever remarks on her life, songs and jokes, a non-Liza fanatic like myself was left behind wondering what on earth was going on, and why an enthusiastic, raspy-voiced drag artist was throwing his arms about like a drunken version of ‘Dancing Queen’. Ashley controls the night with a firm hand though, and when we are just about to lose interest he comes out with a Minnelli-style Lady Gaga and we are back with him. The best part of the night is when he gets a young guy to sing beautifully and then destroys his confidence in a Minnelli version of The Voice, after which he loses a duet battle to the younger talent. Let’s just say drag-Liza doesn’t like competition.
Trevor Ashley is heading back to Australia for now, but if you can catch him in a show in the UK another time, do. Just bear in mind this certain style is not for everyone and that you do need to be quite a Liza fan to understand and enjoy every bit of the show.
Liza (On An E) played at the Lyric Theatre on 7 October.