About Face Theatre blends classic Christmas tales with queer pop culture for its world premiere holiday…
WE THREE LIZA’S Is The Perfect Holiday Redemption
Needless to say, I was a bit worried when I heard that one of my favorite shows of last year, We Three Liza’s, went through a major overhaul of both book and score. Thankfully, my worries were held for naught as, once again, Liza comes out triumphant.
The core material from last year is still in place as Conrad Ticklebottom (again played to perfection by Scott Duff), a well established box maker, is tasked with reinventing his brand, and at the same time, his soul. The person(s) in charge of this task would be none other than the diva herself, Liza Minnelli. All three of her. No, we are not in one of Liza’s valium induced haze (or maybe we are), but instead we are taken on a journey in which her career highs and lows mirrors that of Conrad’s. The metaphor being that if Liza can survive the obstacles she overcame, so can Ticklebottom (or for that matter, or you or me).
Though the cast is smaller, they are much more connected to the material, which contains book and lyrics by Scott Bradley; music and additional lyrics by Alan Schmuckler; all under the perfect eye of director Scott Ferguson, who brings out the humanity of this piece as no other director could.
Of course, none of this would work as well as it does without this sensational cast that gives 150% of themselves for each performance. Back is tour de force, Jeff nominated Danielle Plisz as Liza of the Past, for whom this show gets its heart and soul. She walks a very challenging fine line between parody and reality like no actress has ever been able to pull off. Mark David Kaplan’s interpretation of modern day Liza, is precisely able to capture the soul of the performer as well as sacrifices she made for her art and fans. Then there is Bethany Thomas, who gets the most reworked part of the musical, and is captivating as Liza’s…….well, eye!
We Three Liza’s is a true ensemble piece with each performer being able to reach through the comedy to get to our heartstring. Don’t believe me, just listen to John Francisco and Andrew Swan sing the ¾ timed “Please Handle With Care”, which is one of the finest songs penned for a specific moment in a theatrical show; as well as the amazing Dana Tretta who gets to show off her unique alto belt in “Donna Doesn’t Notice Me”. This cast is also grounded by the compelling Sharriese Hamilton who is quickly becoming one of my favorites to watch in the musical theater realm.
Musical director Aaron Benham manipulates the score’s intricacies with spot-on integrity, always making sure the music’s core message is channelled precisely through the actors. Patrick Andrews proves that there is nothing he cannot do as he brings some dazzling new Fosse-esque choreography to the play and Robert S. Kuhn’s costumes dazzle reminiscent of a Bob Mackie in his prime.
Though We Three Liza’s loses some of the intimacy it had over the Steppenwolf Garage space, it is still at its core one the finest holiday stories to come out of modern American musical theater in the past decade. While we are being inundated with screen to stage knock off’s, We Three Liza’s remains a unique, entertaining and moving story where we can all leave the theatre a bit happier and wiser.
About Face Theatre’s We Three Liza’s runs through January 5, 2014 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. Tickets are available online at www.aboutfacetheatre.com or www.stage773.com, in person at the Stage 773 Box Office (1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago) or by calling(773) 327-5252. For calendar information visit www.TheatreInChicago.com