Liza Minnelli was once the epitome of New York entertainment. Her unique voice and old school razzle dazzle thrilled audiences since she made her Broadway debut in 1965’s Flora The Red Menace. Yet In the last few years Minnelli has been out of public view. Apparently, she now spends her time relaxing on the West Coast with her celebrity pals Michelle Lee, George Hamilton, and Darren Criss. Earlier this month, however, the sultana of sequins paid a visit to midtown’s Sony Hall in an evening entitled Liza’s Back! (Is Broken).
Okay. It wasn’t the real Liza Minnelli. Yet Australian stage star and female impersonator Trevor Ashley pulls off an incredible feat with his uncanny impersonation of the stage legend. Ashley has performed the sold out the show at the Sydney Opera House and in London. For the fortunate New Yorkers at this one night only event, it was a show that will be remembered for ages to come.
Ashley, decked in a black sparkling outfit and fire engine red scarf opened the show with a definitive proclamation. “I’m back!,” she said. “And my back is back…and my back up band… is back! ” Ashley (as Minnelli) stated that she threw out her back during her King Kong audition. She went on to jokingly discuss her bouts with addiction, her failed marriage to David Gest, and the fact that she now “resides in Michael Feinstein‘s granny flat.”
Ashley sang Minnelli’s signature songs (“Cabaret”, “New York, New York”) with even more gusto than Liza herself. Physically and vocally, his mannerisms are flawless. While many female impersonators can ridicule their subjects, Ashley instead delivers a loving but consistently hilarious send up to this Broadway legend.
The two hour spectacle also reimagines Minnelli’s career by placing her center stage of musicals which she never actually starred. “Every character in A Chorus Line was based on me,” Ashley said before launching into “The Music and the Mirror.” She also recalled a phone call from Andrew Lloyd Webber when he asked her to star as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. “As If We Never Said Goodbye” followed. Remember her turn as Elphaba in Wicked? Ashley did, prior to bringing down the house with “The Wizard and I.” Ashley also sang a jazzy lounge version of “Memory” from Cats and a blaring big band version of “Do You Hear the People Sing” from Les Miserables.
Ashley, who has appeared in a number of stage shows including Hairspray, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and his other tribute show, Liza (on an E) is an unbelievably energetic entertainer whose essence can only be captured through live performance.
While Ashley remains a sensation down under and in Europe, let us hope that “Liza” remembers her “city that never sleeps,” and pays us a visit again soon.