REVIEW: Liza’s Back (is Broken) (Underbelly) ★★★★★

From playing the title role in Flora, the Red Menace to Roxie Hart in the Original Broadway Production of Chicago to standing in for Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria, there is no doubt that Liza Minnelli is a celebrated Broadway legend. However, apart from the above credits, her Broadway appearances are few and far between. What if Liza decided to perform all the Broadway roles she’d ever wanted to play in one special night? Liza’s Back (is Broken) is dedicated to all the parts Liza should have played over the past forty years; Grizabella, Norma Desmond, Elphaba and everyone in between. Direct from Rehab, with a seven piece band Liza’s Back (is Broken) features Liza singing Broadway’s most-loved songs including I Have Confidence, Memory, Send in the Clowns, Le Jazz Hot in addition to her iconic performances of Maybe This Time, Cabaret and New York, New York!

Playing the title role in Liza’s Back! (is broken) is celebrated Australian performer and cabaret artist Trevor Ashley. Ashley has created the role of Miss Understanding in the world premiere of Priscilla Queen of The Desert – The Musical, played Edna Turnblad in Hairspray and Monsieur Thenadier in Les Miserables. He also created a one-man Shirley Bassey tribute Diamonds Are For Trevor, which was recently performed to a sell-out audience at the Sydney Opera House. Playing Liza, his smash hit show Liza (on an E) has played seasons worldwide including a week long run at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. Having personally seen Ashley in Priscilla and Hairspray in Australia, I was extremely excited when it was announced he’d be bringing Liza’s Back (is Broken) to the Underbelly Festival for a limited run. I loved him in both musicals and was keen to see him bring Liza back to musical theatre!

As soon as Ashley took the stage, Liza’s lust for life and show business was infectious. Embodying Liza in a way I’ve seen no other artist achieve, Ashley took the audience on a whirlwind adventure as only Liza could imagine. Hilariously explaining how she was originally contacted to play the title roles in shows such as The Sound of Music, Hello Dolly, Sunset Boulevard and Cats but for various reasons couldn’t accept.

Ashley’s performance is not just a loving send-up of one of the most iconic performers ever, he also gives some beautifully crafted poignant moments. Performances of As If We Never Said Goodbye from Sunset Boulevard gave Ashley a chance to display his incredibly powerful vocal talent and morphing into “Momma” Judy Garland, gave a spectacular performance of If He Walked Into My Life from Mame. Perfecting Liza’s speaking voice, hilarious quips and linking dialogue between songs can only be described as “Terrriffic!”

Not wanting to give too much away so audiences can experience Ashley’s performance afresh, Trevor Ashley’s comic tribute to Liza Minelli is raucous fun from beginning to end. Our audience gave three standing ovations and were treated to some surprise encores including a hilarious Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from Evita. It was a joy seeing Liza sing musical theatre’s greatest hits. Ashley’s Liza is funny, heartwarming and every bit the diva she deserves to be!

Reviewed by Stuart James