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Performing Tonight: Liza Minnelli’s Daughter at the Neo-Futurists | Theater review

Mary Fons’s tongue-in-cheek stage memoir’s overindulgent length outweighs its confessional charms.

Photograph: Johnny Knight
Joseph Schupbach, Mary Fons and Donnell Williams in Performing Tonight: Liza Minnelli's Daughter

Fons bases her autobiographical cabaret act cum tongue-in-cheek birth-mother conspiracy theory exposé on two facts: (1) she felt like an outsider in the small Iowa town where she grew up; and (2) people are always telling her she looks like Liza Minnelli (and she does, with a sort of Joan Jett edge). As a result, Fons tells us, she became convinced that the besequined star managed to conceive a child in the late 1970s during some drug-fueled night at Studio 54, then secretly deposited the baby in the heartland for the kind of wholesome upbringing Minnelli herself never got.

But evidently Liza’s plan failed because Fons didn’t much care for the white-picket-fence racket, what with the narrow-minded nabobs and manic-depressive father—sorry, adoptive father. And adulthood isn’t much easier, filled as it is with career insecurities and horrific, Liza-level health problems, described with admirable candor and affecting vulnerability. Fons figures it’s high time she joined Mama in New York, New York.

These chatty confessions come accompanied by a few production numbers, lots of Liza trivia, and some bickering with a pair of combative backup dancers/stagehands (one of whom doubles as an oddly calm Judy Garland). Structured as a drawn-out, increasingly frenzied nervous breakdown, the show, at nearly two and a half hours, is ultimately an exhausting and somewhat self-indulgent ordeal. Fons definitely captures her heroine’s trademark please-love-me! neediness, but she lacks the true sign of a showbiz pedigree: knowing when to get off the stage.

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