There are some lives we never tire of hearing about. And some families more, well, dramatic than others.
So if you’re going to write your debut stage musical as a two-hander relationship piece about a mother and daughter, there’s really only two names you need on your shortlist: Judy and Liza.
For Liverpool actor, Emma Dears, this week sees the realisation of a long held dream, as her new stage musical based on that endlessly fertile Garland-Minelli nexus takes its debut curtain call ahead of a national tour.
“About ten years ago I had the idea for a show about Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli,” Dears tells us. “I had always been compared to Liza as a performer and so I started to look into her life.”
She’s not wrong. Dears as Minelli sends a palpable shiver down the spine. But this is no Stars In Their Eyes pastiche. Dears – a West End regular, with leads in Jesus Christ Superstar, and Miss Saigon – captures Minelli’s vulnerability and bruised ambition too.
And, in casting Lucy Williamson (who’s appeared in We Will Rock You, Fame and Stepping Out) she’s found her Judy. And her match.
“The one thing that these two fascinating women share is the rare ability to move an audience and yet their personal lives are blighted with tragedy and loneliness. When you look deeper into the songs which they have both made famous over the years the parallels with their own life experiences are uncanny,” Dears says.
And, Dears hopes, Judy & Liza captures enough of that emotional history, biography and tragedy to make her ten year journey worth all the sleepless nights. It looks like it was worth it – the show was enthusiastically received when premiered at Hope University’s Capstone Theatre last week.
The show feels like a confessional, with mother talking about daughter, daughter about mother. Intimate and gossipy, the script zeroes in on the sensational stories, the screen appearances and, of course, those songs.
Cabaret, Maybe This Time and Somewhere Over The Rainbow – between them, mother and daughter belted out a fair proportion of the 20th century’s timeless standards. As will Dears and Williamson, backed by a five piece band, with Musical Direction from renowned Conductor and Composer Michael England (Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon, both in the West End) and direction from the award winning Rita Henderson.
So put down the knitting, the book and whatever you’re planning on doing with that broom, it can wait…and call up all your friends of Dorothy’s for a musicals masterclass at the Floral Pavilion this weekend.
Judy & Liza, November 13: 2.30pm, 7.30pm
Marine Promenade, New Brighton
Tickets from £18. Tel: 0151 666 0000