Wouldn’t it be funny if Liza Minnelli was in, say, The Sound of Music? Sounds like the basis of a good sketch on a comedy show, but surely not the sort of thing that would sustain an entire evening, right?
In less skilled hands than Trevor Ashley’s, that would certainly be the case. As it is in his new show, Liza’s Back! (is broken), Ashley manages to, seemingly effortlessly, extend the joke over a two hour running time.
The fact that Ashley’s Liza impersonation is less than subtle only seems to add to the degree of difficulty, making the achievement that much more impressive.
The book for the show, co-written by Ashley and Phil Scott, is full of the filthy humour for which Ashley is known (previously displayed to great effect in his ‘adult pantos’ Fat Swan and Little Orphan TrAshley) and has Liza recounting the roles originally written for her, but for which she was unavailable. The sources of these unavailabilities are as funny as the choice of roles, whether it is disinterest in the rags of Les Misérables or the fact that she was two years old.
Special mention should also go to Max Lambert, whose arrangements make the band of seven (led by drummer and musical director, Andy Davies) sound like a band twice their size, as well as to Cameron Mitchell for his character choreography.
While it is tempting to sing the praises of certain numbers, there is a degree of delight to be had in the surprise generated by the song selection, from the ridiculous to the, curiously, sublime.