Friday, November 5, 2010
Review: Judy & Liza at Hope Theatre, Liverpool
You know when two of the West End's finest musical talents get together that you are not going to experience your average night in the theatre and so it proved with the opening of “Judy & Liza” in the surprisingly intimate surrounding of the Hope Theatre.
Liverpool born Emma Dears had long cherished the idea of bringing a musical based on the lives of Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minnelli to the stage. People had often commented, not only on Emma’s resemblance to Liza Minnelli, but also that she sounded like Liza.
It was not until two years ago, when Emma met fellow singer Lucy Williamson, that she could finally bring the story to the stage. “It is alright to have an idea found until I found the perfect Judy there was not a lot I could do.
Lucy Williamson is the perfect Judy Garland; Lucy gives a very powerful and emotional performance. Lucy has the great songs to sing, her vocal range really does bring that something extra to these songs and you realise why Emma knew that Lucy Williamson was The One to play Judy Garland, her performance is a triumph.
Judy Garland was born into a theatrical family and was on the stage literally from birth. She sang on stage with her two elder sisters as The Gumm Sisters, her name being Francis Gumm, not very successfully until Mother Gumm changed the name to The Garland Sisters and Francis took the opportunity to change her name to Judy Garland, success rapidly followed. Hollywood beckoned and at the age of 13 Judy was a contract player at MGM Studios, were MGM Studio boss Louis Mayer took a special interest in her career, Mayer introduced her to the pills, which were to blight her life.
It was “The Wizard of Oz” that made Judy Garland an international star at the tender age of 16. The film cost $3 million dollars to make, a staggering amount of money in 1939. Strange now to think that Louis Mayer wanted to drop the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the film because he did not think it was an appropriate song for Judy to sing, shows what he knew.
Judy’s troubled life is well covered; it does have to be asked if some of the great songs associated with her would have become standards had she not sung them.
Judy Garland played The Empire in the 1950s and after one show went to Alan Williams Blue Angel Club, Alan asked her to pay for her drink, Judy told him that she never paid for drinks, to which Alan said, “You do here love” Alan maintains that he did not throw Judy out of the club, she flounced out when she was asked to pay.
“Judy & Liza” runs chronologically, first with Judy and then uses the famous 1964 concert Judy and 19 year old Liza gave at the London Palladium to bring on Liza’s story. Liza is the daughter of Judy and her second husband Vincent Minnelli.
The Michael England Orchestra makes the musical changes through the decades from the sound of the thirties to Emma’s show stopping rendition of “Cabaret” Their musical contribution is a highlight.
This is a two-woman show that benefits from the intimate staging and very effective lighting. Judy does have the better costumes, from that Golden Age of Hollywood, Emma Dears must have felt that some of Liza’s fashion choices were of the time, but have not stood the test of time, apart from that famous white suit, she does loose out in the costume stakes.
As a person who knows the pain name mispronunciation, not the Philip part, I sympathise with Liza and loved Emma’s “Liza with a Z” or Zee as the Americans pronounce it, very funny.
A beautiful and entertaining evening that you will really enjoy, a theatrical masterpiece or should that be Mistresspiece. “Judy & Liza” runs the emotions from A to Zee.
Judy & Liza will be showing at Theatre Royal St Helens on Saturday 6th November.
The Floral Pavilion New Brighton on Saturday 13th November when there will be two performances.