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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

LIZA WITH A "T" (article first published : 2002-09-5)

An impersonation of Liza Minnelli? No. LIZA with a “T” is much more than that. Directed by Neill Lessick and starring talented Tonya Koenderman the show in true cabaret format tells the story of Liza’s life, her relationship with her parents, her dependency difficulties and subtle quips of the person behind the brilliant performer. It is an encounter with the spirit of Minnelli herself through the songs that made Liza famous.

If you are a Minnelli fan, make sure you see the show. If you are not, see the show and you’ll certainly become a fan. Koenderman’s study of Minnelli’s singing and her moves, down to the smallest gesticulation has paid off.

With style and class expected from the Backstage Theatre of Durban’s Royal Hotel, the show opens with excitement and anticipation creating the mood for an evening a la Liza Minnelli. When Tonya Koenderman appears on stage she immediately captures the audience with the opening song, Some People.

With grace and refined professionalism the performer takes her audience on a journey with less known Minnelli songs to the well known ones. With easy flowing text as Minnelli and as herself, Koenderman, shares an almost spiritual bonding with the real Liza seldom seen in a so-called impersonation.

As an absolute Liza Minnelli fan, I had reservations whether anybody can really capture the true Liza’s contagious energy and style on stage. Koenderman certainly can. Her intense passion was particularly evident in the combination songs Married and You Better Sit Down Kids as well as My Lover Makes No Sound.

Despite a few twitches in the sound engineering she amazed with each and every song she performed. Other songs superbly performed include Mein Herr, If You Hadn’t, But You Did, Stepping Out and Imagine. Of course the old time favourites Cabaret, New York and Liza With a Z were all there and had the audience ecstatic.

We can all do with a stylish evening out. Coupled with a performance of this nature allow your body to come to a halt whilst the soul catches up. Allow Tonya with a “T” to treat you with something very special.

Tickets at R120 per person include a three-course meal in true Royal style. For this production the chef has entered into the spirit of the show with his menu that identifies the starters as Act One. Here the choice is either Asparagus "leading man" Garlic and Fresh Herb Ragout served in a Puff Pastry Case and Chicken Livers served with garden green salad accessories. Act Two indicates the main course of either Slinky Strips of Beef Fillet, cooked with mustard, mushrooms and fresh herbs or Baked Linefish topped with mussel, shrimp and fennel sauce- both equally successful. For the Finale (dessert) there's an enjoyable Sinful Cinnamon Flavoured Pavlova.

LIZA with a "T" runs at the Royal Hotel's Backstage venue until September 28. Bookings on 031 333-6000. – Luke Thomas




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