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Judy and Liza

Emma Dears

Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

May 28- June 2

(also Brindley Theatre, Runcorn June 13; Floral Pavilion, New Brighton June 28; Leeds City Varieties, June 29).

Helen Sheals and Judy (left) and writer and performer Emma Dears as Liza Minnelli in Judy and Liza
Helen Sheals and Judy (left) and writer and performer Emma Dears as Liza Minnelli in Judy and Liza

Banner showing a four-star rating

Judy and Liza (with a Z) is a bio-musical about one of the most famous mother-daughter partnerships of

any time.

Judy Garland was one of the original child movie stars, rising to stardom as a teenager in The Wizard of Oz. Played here by Helen Sheals, she is portrayed as a flawed, tragic figure who suffered a drugs and alcohol-induced early death, pushed by studio pressures and not helped by her choices for marriage - marriages that seldom lasted. As her daughter says here: "Mom, I can't come to your fourth wedding, but I promise to be at the next one."

Helen has a lived-in voice, just right for the choice of songs from the Garland back catalogue: I Was Born in a Trunk gives a flavour of her early life, but Zing Went the Strings of My Heart was probably more in tune with her life.

Liza Minnelli, the daughter of Judy and her film director husband Vincente Minnelli, is played with gusto by Emma Dears, the show's writer.

From Liverpool, Emma has toured the production for 13 years, which ensures that proceedings are as polished as the screen performances of the two stars. Multi-Oscar-winning musical Cabaret springs to life as Emma belts out the main theme, dressed in black and looking Liza to a T.

This is a jukebox tribute; a roster of the songs that made both women famous in their separate careers, giving a loose flavour of the lives of the two stars.

At first it feels like you have been invited to watch a family evening with pictures of relatives, now dead, who were either good fathers or poor husbands. But gradually the voices of the two performers and the quality of the many now-standard songs, win you over.

By the end you feel that to be in show business is not a good life choice. And to be the child of a famous mother is likely not to be much fun.

But as they sing Let Me Entertain You, they certainly do. And there is always the crowd pleaser Somewhere Over the Rainbow to look forward to.

As a musical entertainment it's a five-star treat, but it might have been a little better matched to the venue - their generous microphone volume was a little over-exuberant at times.

Info and tickets here


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