Saturday 29th June 2013
It is not often you see two legends of musical theatre performing on stage together, but it certainly felt that way last night watching Judy & Liza at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre. Performing as one of the most famous mother-daughter duos of all time, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli (as if you hadn’t guessed), Lucy Williamson and Emma Dears managed to bring these two extraordinary performers to life.
The show has been created by Emma Dears, who in bearing such a physical resemblance to Liza has surely been destined to play the part. If she has been practicing her whole life it has paid off, having perfected the voice, mannerisms and even smile of Minnelli to the extent that it feels more than just impersonation. The image of her walking on stage to perform ‘Maybe This Time’ is particularly striking. Likewise, Lucy Williamson recreates the rich, powerful voice of Garland coupled with the wit, charisma and stage presence, as evidenced particularly in the palpable sense of excitement generated in the audience at the start of Act Two (no spoilers!).
Accompanied by Simon Beck on piano it is a very well conceived production, with the duo’s famous 1964 Palladium concert acting as a centrepiece and utilising photographs, video footage and narration to tell their respective life stories. With a wealth of material to draw on, Dears has chosen songs to complement the narration and in doing so you get a varied set list plus a fresh perspective on iconic numbers such as ‘Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Cabaret’. Indeed, it is in these two songs that Williamson and Dears are at their best; with a haunting, reflective quality to the former and a powerhouse performance of the latter to literally bring the curtain down.
There are moments to make you laugh and to cry; ‘Sorry I Asked’ & ‘Smile’ were given heartbreaking poignancy by the context in which they were performed but the infectious ‘The Trolley Song’ and witty ‘Liza With A Z’ can’t fail to make you smile. With both Williamson & Dears remaining entirely in character throughout, they capture the affection and warmth between the two and even if you know every detail of their lives, the narration and performances are perfectly balanced to please both ardent fans and newcomers alike.
It was clear that the audience was enthralled and following a full standing ovation I overheard many superlative-laden conversations. Alas, this was the last night of the tour, but with such a strong reaction from the audience I can’t imagine it is the last we will see of the show and I would certainly go back for more!