Individually speaking, Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli have countless iconic concerts and appearances in their individual repertoires, but when it comes to their collaborations together, 1964’s “Live At The London Palladium” is the crown jewel in their collective catalogue. In fact, as the title behind the increasingly popular cabaret show “Judy And Liza: Once In A Lifetime” so proudly proclaims, the partnership between the megastar mother and burgeoning daughter was truly one for the history books and something Chicagoans are finally getting to periodically relive.
Both co-stars obviously have an equal affinity for their characters, but they thankfully favor a classy over campy approach throughout the warm and engaging 75 minute production.
Actresses/singers extraordinaire Nancy Hays (Judy) and Michelle Lauto (Liza) first conceived the project while working together in Pride Films & Plays’ “The Boy From Oz,” and given a pair of previous sold out shows followed by a third engagement Sunday night at the Uptown Underground, chances are the Windy City will be seeing a lot more from The Swinging City. For those wondering what all the fuss is about, “Judy & Liza” is basically a tender love letter to the songs, personalities, looks and cultural references that could otherwise only be found on what’s survived of the limited footage or the original record (which was recently restored and reissued by Capitol Records).
Both co-stars obviously have an equal affinity for their characters, but they thankfully favor a classy over campy approach throughout the warm and engaging 75 minute production. At their side is a snazzy jazz combo with crisp orchestral arrangements by music director/pianist Robert Ollis, backed by meticulous direction and choreography from Jeff nominee Cam Turner, alongside gorgeous and cleverly accented costumes designed by Jeff Award winner John Nasca.
It all begins with Hays reverently portraying the seasoned showbiz veteran entering the twilight of her career, but still possessing considerable vocal gusto and a superstar persona. But as Lauto confidently struts out as her 18-year-old daughter, audiences are treated to the more human side of the family combo as they frequently exchange friendly conversation with the ease of walking down the street.
Even so, the emphasis throughout “Judy & Liza” is mostly about the music with highlights ranging from the former’s “Once In A Lifetime” and “Smile,” to the latter’s “Gypsy In My Soul” and “Who’s Sorry Now?” And perhaps most magical are the numerous duets, such as “Together (Wherever We Go),” “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and “Swanee,” all of which give an accurate glimpse of what each entertainer was truly like in their prime.
Those paying close attention may have notice a set list switch between “San Francisco” and “Chicago” in the closing slot, though even purists would likely concede the artistic liberty is appropriate given the geography. There’s also the non-album addition of a triumphant pairing throughout “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again” after the elder’s obligatory (and breathtaking) “Over The Rainbow,” though no matter the specific selection, these ladies and their backers always seem to land on just the right note.
For a list of upcoming shows at the Uptown Underground, visit UptownUnderground.net.
For additional information on Pride Films & Plays, visit PrideFilmsAndPlays.com.