The Australian actor, singer and drag artist performs a tongue-in-cheek version of “Cabaret” in the above video. The song, which became one of Minnelli’s staples after her Oscar-winning turn in the 1972 movie musical of the same name, suits Ashley just fine. Though he’d been performing as various divas for years before his first stint as Minnelli about a decade ago, “I’ve loved her forever, and oddly it became probably the easiest vocal impersonation for me.”
Ashley, whose credits include Aussie stagings of “Hairspray” and “Les Misérables,” will perform “Cabaret” and other classics Feb. 4 when he brings “Liza’s Back! (Is Broken)” to New York’s Sony Hall. The evening’s set, however, goes beyond Liza’s existing catalog by featuring interpretations of songs from musicals Minnelli might have sung in her heyday, including “Sunset Boulevard” and “Wicked.”
“It’s a smorgasbord of Broadway hits sung through the Liza lens, which is equal parts fabulous and hilarious,” he told HuffPost. “I’ve fictionalized roles that I thought Liza should have been offered and others she absolutely shouldn’t have. ... Then we went to some fabulous arrangers who helped us Liza-ize songs.”
As to what he admires most about Minnelli herself, he added, “Her energy. Her earnestness. That bigger-is-better attitude ... the artifice of showbiz she portrays while trying to still stay simple.”
“Liza’s Back! (Is Broken)” will arrive in New York as drag itself is experiencing a mainstream renaissance of sorts, thanks to the popularity of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” But Ashley says his work harks back to an earlier, more theatrically exaggerated style of drag performance.
He continued, “You won’t see any death drops in my show. Just death-defying vocals, I hope.”