ED FRINGE 2011: Liberace: Live in Heaven
Assembly George Square
Written and directed by: Julian Woolford
Musical Director: Allan Rogers
Lighting Design: Martin Nicholas
The Public Reviews Rating: 4.0 Stars
Reviewer: Johnny Fox
This is a clever construct: at the pearly gates, the “world’s highest paid entertainer” meets his inquisitors in St Peter (voiced by Stephen Fry) and God (Victoria Wood – “I made the world in six days and on the seventh I baked a fruit cake”) before an audience of angels decides his ultimate destination.
Smartly realised in Julian Woolford’s well-researched script, the casting of seventies’ talent show pianist Bobby Crush is a stroke of genius. ‘Stroke’ may be uncomfortably close to the truth: Crush looks terrific as Liberace, having morphed from sweet-faced Opportunity Knocks winner to convincingly sweating grotesque, but you might worry for his own cholesterol count.
His acting, though, has only two settings: accurately gargling his vowels to ape Lee’s camp delivery, and ‘serious’ which he deploys for the reflective passages about childhood and sexual confessions,. The wig and makeup transform him perfectly into the character, but when he copies Liberace’s trademark smile, his eyes disappear and some engagement with the audience is lost.
His competence at the keyboard is unrivalled, and the way in which he adopts Liberace’s style of playing is entirely authentic. However, the anachronistic references to Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson don’t really work and the excessive reverb on the sound desk and the imbalance between piano and backing track need to be urgently addressed.
Thanks to everyone who joined Erin Kelly, Melanie McGrath and me at Mansfield Central Library on Saturday 25 February. We had a panel discussion and Q&A, ...