Have yourself a Liza little Christmas

Trevor Ashely as Liza Minnelli at a Sydney media call promoting "Liza's Back (is Broken)" in September 2016. Photo: Richard Milnes/Alamy Live News/supplied.

Trevor Ashley is bringing his legendary Liza show back – with a Christmas twist – to make the yuletide gay. He spoke with Rita Bratovich.

Like his favourite alter ego Liza Minelli, Trevor Ashley believes life is a cabaret. That’s why he’s reprising one of his most popular impersonations for a special series of Christmas shows, Ring Them Bells! A Very Liza Xmas, at Paddo RSL this November and December. 

“I think the thing with Liza is you can have so much fun with her,” says Ashley. “Obviously there’s the family history; the style of singing is so great and brassy and over the top. She’s got some great songs that I love to sing, and then there’s, you know, just all the comedy you get to do with her because she’s so kooky!”

This is the first time Ashley will present Liza in a Christmas show and he’s enjoying exploring her in this context. There’s going to be lots of new material including stories of treasured family moments and songs he hasn’t performed before. 

“I did my first Liza show 11 years ago, so, you know, the world’s changed,” says Ashley. “I used to do a Lady Gaga medley as Liza back then because those songs were new … Now I’m doing Lizzo. She’ll be doing Lizzo this year … or ‘Lizo’, as she likes to call her.”

Ashley debuted his audacious version of the pixie-haired chanteuse in Liza (on an E) in the late noughties. It was a spectacular success, Ashley became a star and the news started spreading. The show travelled internationally (including London’s West End and Off Broadway in New York City) and Ashley became the undisputed king of the heel among Liza impersonators. 

In 2016, he resuscitated her for a new show, Liza’s Back (is Broken), which was again internationally acclaimed. Though it’s now five years since he last put on a sequinned pant suit and vagabond shoes, Ashley says it’s easy for him to slip back into character. 

“It’s so ingrained in me from having done her so many times,” he explains. “So for me, it’s like putting on an old jumper – she’s always there, somewhere in me.”

Trevor Ashley as Liza Minnelli performing Theme From New York, New York at Light the Night 2009 in Sydney. Video: Trevor Ashley/YouTube.

Ashley recently staged his own comeback with his series of cabaret shows at Paddo RSL called Showqueen. He’s excited about returning to the venue for Ring Them Bells!

“It’s so good. People are really enjoying coming there. It’s so easy for us to put a show on and I’m just thrilled that the venue is there and that we can use it and that it’s cost effective for audiences and myself as producer. 

“And I like supporting the venue, they’ve been doing a lot of live music and I think that’s a really special thing.”

Musical director Andy Davies will lead a band of seven virtuoso musicians who will be spaced out – as will Liza (wink). James Simpson has created all new arrangements for the song list which includes indispensable standards, surprising covers, and one or two traditional Christmas classics. 

Judy Garland, Liza’s mother, of course sang the quintessential Christmas song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and though Liza famously swore never to sing her mother’s songs, she did in fact perform this song. 

“So I’ll be doing that song to sort of close out the night,” says Ashley. “I think it’s just such a beautiful song and it’s about hope for the future. And it has been such a tough time, so I’m excited to do a show like this that makes everybody feel better. It’s about making sure that, you know, people are joyous when they leave, and hopeful. 

“I think it’s been so tough that everyone deserves a laugh this year.”

Ring Them Bells! A Very Liza Xmas starring Trevor Ashley plays multiple dates at the Paddo RSL, 220 Oxford Street, Paddington from Sunday, 29 November to Thursday, 17 December. Tickets $69+BF (minimum of two) available at www.trevorashley.com.au.

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