Somewhere Under the Rainbow: The Liza Minnelli Story at the Landor
Last night, old-school musical glamour was brought to the upstairs theatre of The Landor pub in the London debut of Cillian O’Donnachadha’s one-woman show Somewhere Under the Rainbow: The Liza Minnelli Story. Starting out life in 2011 as a ten-minute play, performed in Dublin’s The Cobalt Café, the show quickly evolved into a one-act musical and was staged as part of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, where it received rave reviews.
Three years later and audiences are still giving standing ovations to the highly talented Sharon Sexton: the actress and cabaret artist who convincingly transforms into Minnelli for the duration of the performance. Set in the star’s dressing room in the moments just before she goes on stage, the series of monologues tells the story of her entrance into show business and her tense but loving relationship with her notorious mother Judy Garland. In accompaniment, Sexton delivers renditions of songs from some of Minnelli’s best loved roles, in striking resemblance to her predecessor.
The kitsch backstage setting reflects Minnelli’s large flambuoyant following as well as the play’s beginnings through the subtle rainbow of dresses hanging from a clothes rail. Below these rests a pair of red sequin tap shoes, a quiet but constant reminder of Garland’s famous breakout role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and the shadow that her resultant fame cast over Minnelli’s career. For the show is mainly about Minnelli’s attempt to achieve stardom alone, to find her own limelight rather than share that with her mother, which includes facing her own personal demons as well.
O’Donnachadha also sensitively and humorously touches upon the actor’s recovery from drug addiction (“have you ever had a conversation with Elizabeth Taylor about cleaning toilets? It was a weird time.”) All this is achieved with three costume changes and one especially energetic rendering of Mein Herr from Cabaret, perhaps the defining moment of Minnelli’s career. The show is indulgent and fun and Sexton’s ability to make it seem so easy is extraordinary.
Somewhere Under the Rainbow: The Liza Minnelli Story is at the Landor Theatre until 17th May 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.