Judy and Liza Together … Again!

Posted By Brie Austin In Category: Interviews , On Stage , Reviews

If you’re a fan of Judy Garland, then you know her work way beyond the rainbow. The role of Dorothy might have made her a legend, but the cabaret career that followed made her an icon. And her daughter Liza’s career is no less legend, and her persona no less iconic than her mother’s.

Tommy Femia and Rick Skye have been impersonating the two women for decades:  Fabulous! (New York Times), Extraordinary (Theatre Mania), Amazing (Time Out), Astonishing … Masterful … Brilliant (Chicago Sun Times), and Sensational (Times) are but a few of the never ending accolades they receive.

Skye had previously stated that “Judy & Liza’ is really an amalgam of Tommy’s show Judy Garland LIVE! and my showA Slice O’ Minnelli’. “We are doing many of our best bits, and blended them into a show that asks the question, ‘What would a Judy/Liza concert be like if Judy were around to perform with Liza today?’  There are a lot of parody songs, songs they would sing together and the show just builds and builds with one great big hit after another.”

Having reviewed each of their shows individually several years ago, I was almost giddy with anticipation to see them on stage together in Judy and Liza Together Again!

I wasn’t disappointed. The show is highly entertaining with song, humor, parody and bigger-than-life personas. The new show uses the same format that worked so well in the Judy and Barbra show.

Tonight Judy opened the show with Hey Look Me Over and then proceeded to wander about with her patter of comments about nothing in particular. She’d often stop mid-sentence with a giggle, seemingly having forgotten what she was talking about. She tells clever jokes that the audience gets, but she often doesn’t;  playing comedic straight man to herself. It all works because Femmia’s timing, low-key demeanor and facial expressions are so seamless and perfect. He is so deliciously entertaining, that at times you almost forget how good a singer he is.

Judy segues from discussing the news of the day into talking about Liza just before introducing her:  “Happy 4th of July everyone!  Gay marriage is now law, did you know?  But let me tell you,” she says as if letting the audience in on a secret, “just because its legal, doesn’t make gay marriage any easier, and I should know“– a stab at Liza’s string of marriages to gay men.

After being introduced Liza bursts into the room singing as she works her way through — and loving — her audience.  By the time she hits the stage to close out the number she is panting.  She takes a bow, and then attempts to speak but can’t catch her breath. As she saunters to stage right to get a drink, she stretches the gag; trying to talk to the audience, but too winded to do so — in an obvious parody of the real Liza’s overzealous performances. And even in this stab of fun, it is clearly done with love and respect.

It’s easy enough to recreate the Liza “look” – big eyes, black spiked hair, short dresses and/or pantsuits –, but what sets Rick Skye apart is he doesn’t merely impersonate Liza, he becomes her; through his huge voice,  speech pattern, and mannerisms, which is why THE STAGE said “Altogether as loving as it is honest.”

Throughout the show the performers alternate taking center stage while the other does a quick costume change, with several duets and mother-daughter chats along the way.

The show was chock full of great songs, including: Hey, Look me over!, The Trolley Song, Home Sweet Heaven, Wilkommen/Old Friend, Don’t Tell Mama, Mein Chair, Ring them Single Ladies, Hello, Mama, Hello Liza, Hooray for Love Medley, Fifty Percent, Rockabye your baby with a dixie melody, Maybe this time, New York, New York, Over the Rainbow -Get Happy-Happy Days Medley.

If you like great singing, smart comedy, fabulous dresses, wonderful songs — all delivered with the highest professionalism, this is a must-see show.

After the show I had the opportunity to talk with Tommy and Rick for a few moments.

BRIE:  How did the show come about? 

Rick: I was flying to Florida to do a show and met Tommy on the plane and we got to talking.  As it turned out we were surprised to learn that we were both booked at the same club.  When we arrived we were informed that they expected us to perform together.  So we quickly threw an act together, and had such a good time doing it, that we talked about building a real show, and we did. We presented it last year and it was extended.  And we had so much fun with it and get along so well together that we decided to revive it this year.

BRIE:  Tommy, with Judy gone so many years, how to keep her fresh and new?

Tommy:  Certainly the times change, so I can always update the patter dialogue, which was so signature for her, and also by singing songs that she never got to sing, but those that I believe she would have if given the chance.  This is why I added Fifty Percent to the show.

BRIE:  How much research was involved in putting your respective roles together?

Tommy and Rick intertwined:  (Laughs) None.  I worshipped her growing up. By the time I started performing as her I knew everything there was to know about  her music, her life, her likes and dislikes, mannerisms, everything.

BRIE:  Thanks for the time, and best of luck on your extended run.  I loved the show, and know others will continue to enjoy it as well.  Hopefully more people will get the opportunity to see you.  Keep me informed of your shows as you tour so I can have it posted for our readers.

Tommy/ Rick:  We’ll keep you updated for sure; thank so much for the support.

BRIE: My absolute pleasure.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE PERFORMERS:

Tommy Femia: has won the Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs (MAC) Award 7 times, and also received a Back Stage Bistro Award and is considered by many the best Judy Garland impersonator working today.

Rick Skye: is a multi-award winning performer who has enjoyed success both on Broadway and the West End. Training with the Joffrey Ballet and the famed Stella Adler, Rick toured the US with Ann Reinking and Sandy Duncan in “The American Dance Machine Show” and in the Kennedy Center Production of “Miss Liberty”. He acted with Dorothy Louden in a role written especially for him by Paul Zindel in “Danny and Della”. He danced in “Merlin” (with Nathan Lane and Chita Rivera) and again with Chita in “Bring Back Birdie”. He did a stint on “All My Children” and appeared in the film “The Cater Waiter” starring as David Drake. His friendship with Neil Sedaka led to his writing and starring in “The Flip Side of Neil Sedaka” (the tribute with a twist), which got him nominated as ‘Best Newcomer’ by The Manhattan Association of Cabarets.

(PUBLISHED TG Reporter Magazine 2011)

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About Brie Austin

Co-author of I'd Do It Again, he is a columnist/reporter for a variety of magazines in the areas of music, lifestyle, nightlife, travel and business. He also writes business documents and creates copy for websites.

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