Tue 11 Dec, 2012
Tags: 3 STARS, About Face Theatre, Steppenwolf Garage, Steppenwolf Garage Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, We Three Lizas, World Premiere
By Venus Zarris
What I look forward to most during this holiday season (of traditions parlayed into nonstop ad campaigns) is not the standard stories, but rather those bizarre deviations that emerge from our collective perceptions of Christmas cheer. Who better to deviate than deviates? Mind you, the word deviate is a compliment rather than a pejorative. It represents those of us that jump the track from social convention and function outside of the mainstream. As we see more and more of Queer America morphing into something resembling everyone else, it is refreshing to catch a glimpse of that darling decadence that scares the ultraconservatives and dares to celebrate our own playfully twisted uniqueness.
We Three Lizas – A Holiday Bender is a fusion of faintly recognizable seasonal stories tossed into a martini shaker with queer pop culture references serving as the hard liquor. Playwright Scott Bradley mixes this signature cocktail up with a generous helping of wonderfully original songs, by composer Alan Schmuckler, and an infusion of FABULOUS to realize a phantasm of holiday escapism. We Three Lizas is a cabaret of camp that entertains with a to-die-for cast and not one, not two, but three sensational Lizas.
To be clear, this is not a Liza impersonation holiday concert. We Three Lizas tells a strange story set in a design shop where an aging phenom frantically laments his dwindling career. He implores Reggie, his right hand girl, to steal a spell book from witches in order to invoke the powerful Mystique; the Great Queen of Wishes who will grant him his heart’s delight. He demands youth, wealth and beauty. He gets incarnations of Liza Minnelli that sing, dance and enlighten as only Liza can.
Sound bizarre? Well sure it is. It’s convoluted and corny but so is the notion of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman or a baby born in a barn and then visited by kings from a foreign land. Don’t expect Dickensian profundity. Just order a drink, sit back and enjoy the heartwarming cray cray.
We Three Lizas seems to have two shows happening, the design shop drama and the Liza apparitions. While the ghostly Lizas are certainly the show’s highlights, what makes this mix marvelous is a killer cast that hits all the marks, no matter how off the wall.
Everyone brings something exceptional to the stage with more than one standout performance. Dana Tretta is terrific as Reggie; cute, vulnerable, determined to do what’s right while dutifully catering to someone who’s completely wrong. Tretta is an endearing princess of musical theater with old school chops and the ability to “sell it” better than a Black Friday bargain blow-out! Sean Blake is wicked, fierce and fabulous as Mystique. Scott Bradley is hysterical as the slightly sloppy and silly yet strangely sophisticated “mature” Liza, brilliantly keeping us in the loop of her eccentric one-line humor. Danielle Plisz is the explosively perfect Liza in her prime, eager to please and absolutely capable of knocking your socks off.
With gaytastically jazz-hands-eriffic choreography by Patrick Andrews, flamboyantly flattering costume designs by Mieka van der Ploeg and Robert S. Kuhn and a great pit band (Alan Schmuckler on piano, Jed Feder on drums and Brandon Mitchell on bass); director Scott Ferguson renders frenetically Liza-riffic holiday cheer that will delight the crowds both straight and queer.
With a spectacular ensemble that even Scrooge couldn’t help but love and plenty of gaudy fun to offset any shopping anxiety or family dysfunction, About Face Theatre delivers a holiday fantasy hit. Don you now your LGBTQ or straight apparel and hurry to Steppenwolf’s Garage Theater for this wonderfully wild word premiere of We Three Lizas – A Holiday Bender; where the bar is always open and the spirits are as sassy as the drinks are strong!
(“We Three Lizas” runs through December 23, 2012 at the Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted. 312-335-1650)
We Three Lizas production photos by Michael Brosilow.
* Visit Theatre In Chicago for more information on this show. We Three Lizas – Steppenwolf Theatre – Play Detail – Theatre In Chicago