CabaretFeaturedReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FRINGE: Judy and Liza: The Warren – The McElderry

Reviewer: Simon Topping

By: Bill Elms and On Song Productions

Writer: Emma Dears

An upbeat rendering of Together, Wherever We Go starts a stunning selection of songs from the careers of the legendary showbiz mother and daughter duo, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, here at The McElderry venue at The Warren.

Taking inspiration from their infamous 1964 London Palladium concert, Emma Dears (who also plays Liza) has written a touching tribute to both women, exploring the rise of their fame and highlighting the parallels between their lives, with the fabulous songs taking centre stage.

With the aid of a photograph album, Dears, as Liza, begins to narrate about the origins of her mother’s talent and background she came from. Already from a showbiz family Judy (played by Helen Sheals) quickly followed suit and by the time she was 13 she was making waves. The industry was ruthless back when the big studio bosses ran stars and we learn how the head of MGM, Louis B Mayer, called her his “little hunchback”, placing her on a cocktail of pills (for weight loss, to get up in the morning, to go to sleep at night) to control what he saw as his “assett”. This rough treatment of her would start and feed an addiction Garland could not pull away from for the rest of her short life.

Interspersed with the storytelling are some wonderful songs including The Trolley Song from the hit film Meet me in St Louis, You Make me Love You and of course, Somewhere over the Rainbow. .

Both Dears and Sheals hit the mark as Liza and Judy. Sheals emotes well and plays Garland with a sweet vulnerability. Dears also acts her part very well and has some funny moments singing and moving in the more joyful numbers. Liza with a Z is a particularly funny number and shows off Dears’ tremendous vocal dexterity to perfection.

The star of the show is the amazing back catalogue of music that both women have left us. Every song is engaging to listen to and Dears and Sheals shine as they sing with great intensity and skill. Both do closely sound like the women they are portraying and it’s fabulous to drink in their performances.

As the show continues Dears belts out Liza’s greatest hits including Cabaret, to the great pleasure of the audience and Sheals continues to delight as Judy. It is a very strong performance from the singers.

Judy and Liza is a rousing piece; a charming trip down memory lane. Any fan of their music would be captivated by this tribute to the stars. Equally if you love musical theatre this is the show for you too. By the end of the performance the crowd are on their feet showing their appreciation with a well deserved standing ovation for this powerhouse of a performance. It’s a show not to be missed.

Reviewed on 7th June

The Review Hub Score

A Fabulous Tribute

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