Being Liza – Just Festival, St. John’s Church

Written by Rachel Flynn

Directed by Ryan Alexander Dewar

Performances on August 13th & August 20th at St. John’s Church

Want to know the measure of a company? It lies principally in their reaction to a technical fault. No falter, no floundering, Interabang Productions response to such events is admirable. They know where, when and how to approach the issue without dampening the experience, kudos all around. Now, onto the show.  

Routine is comfortable, especially when it’s one you’ve been living with for years. Worshipping an idol, working with your father and having a steady life all sound appealing, but is it the life you want? Frances lives her days clad in the feathers of that Queen of Cabaret herself, Liza (with a Z) Minnelli. What does she want though? To keep her father, Pete, happy? Is it the love of a singing-accountant, or be humble, make a difference to the world, even if that means giving it all up and moving away.

Switching up venues, Being Liza moves from its premiere of the Assembly Roxy into St. John’s Church. What they lose in the intimacy of a close audience, they work it to their advantage. It offers Rachel Flynn the capability to strut, as her vocals accentuating themselves off of the high ceilings. They add depth to the production, levels down into the aisle or up onto the platform.

Alongside a tender, thought-provoking script, comes a tremendous level of dedication through musical means. Flynn’s control of her vocals is impressive, emulating Minnelli’s style while leaving a signature note of her own. She has some fierce competition, for James Keenan, who plays a blinder of a comedic role, stands dangerously close to stealing the spotlight when belting out his pipes.

The relationship the pair have is touching, the emotion overwhelming at times. As Flynn captures a playful, indecisive heart with empathy, it is Keenan’s staggering range, crossing from comforting to a father at breaking point which hits hardest.

The singing accountant (Benjamin Storey), a Geordie boy with wholesome charm doesn’t get sufficient weight. His interactions are often quick, adding more to conflict rather than building a relationship with Frances. The character is interesting, adds levity and would be a welcome addition to more scenes.

Being Liza is a remarkably touching story, where you can feel the essence of the writer. It is less a tribute for Minnelli herself as it is for our parents, our families and ourselves. A tale of stepping out into the world singing, not decking yourself out with sequins and wigs – but as you. Whoever you may be.

Tickets available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/being-liza