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My chat with Liza Pulman got distracted when we started to talk about my hometown, Dublin. Liza was once married to a Dubliner and spend a lot of time there. After some wonderful reminisces we got back to the matter in hand – Liza’s forthcoming tour: Liza Pulman Sings Streisand, which opens at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds before moving to the Mercury Theatre in Colchester.
But before we talked about the show I was curious to know, given her mother’s & father’s artistic careers, if Liza was ever going to do anything else in life but tread the boards?
“Yes, I would say it was inevitable actually. I did have a brief dalliance where I thought I might be a vet – or, in particular, a Goldfish doctor! My father won me a Goldfish at a fair and sadly it died overnight and that was the only time in my life when I genuinely though I’d do something else.”
So, you never had that conversation about getting a ‘proper job’?
“No, I didn’t, though funnily enough neither of my parents were keen for me to go on stage. My father in particular – in the circles I grew up in, the fact that I used sit on the end of my Mum’s bed and read her film and TV scripts through with her – I was a real natural when it came to doing that sort of stuff. They were constantly being asked by directors, writers and agents f I might consider doing a little TV thing or a film and they were always very keen for me as a child actor not to get heavily involved at that point. I think they wanted to make sure that it was my choice, an adult choice.”
You have played in panto, opera, operetta… you’ve been in Midsomer Murders, you have sung alongside Michael Ball… is there any one of those things that you like more than any other?
“Do you know, they all have their own amazing qualities. I do look back at my career to date and think what a ridiculously eclectic one it has been – it has been amazing because I have been able to do all of these things. I went to music college really to find my own voice outside of my very theatrical family, which is how I ended up doing opera, it was my thing, nobody else in my family did it. I spent six years at music college, then I went to Glyndebourne and really went down that classical music path. But I think as much as I loved doing it and as great success I did have relatively speaking, I think I always knew I was a song and dance girl at heart.”
Which brings us neatly along to the current show in which you perform the songs of Barbra Streisand. How on earth did you go about selecting what to sing with such a rich catalogue to choose from?
“It was very difficult she has such an enormous catalogue of music, fifty-five years’ worth of recordings. She has been prolific, and she has never stuck to one genre. I really had a huge amount to pick from – in the end the songs I chose I chose for two reasons, one because they were the right songs for the show. When you structure a show its needs its highs and its lows and ultimately it has to be stuff that I love to sing… Evergreen, The Way We Were, New York State of Mind … some stuff from Funny Girl.”
Have you ever met Barbra Streisand?
“I haven’t actually. The number of people who come up to see me after the show and say ‘you have got to get Barbra Streisand to come and see this show, she would love it!’ and I cannot think of anything more terrifying!”
“My Mum has met her though! She auditioned to play her mother in Yentl. Streisand was producing and directing it and was at the casting. She read with Mum for about half an hour and although Mum didn’t get it she received a hand-written letter from Barbra Streisand saying what a treat it had been to meet her. I thought what an incredibly classy thing to do when you are so busy.”
When you create shows like this, and your previous tour where you sang songs of Hollywood, do you need to adapt your style to suit or does it just come naturally?
“I would say, at the risk of being too hubristic, that it did flow naturally, I certainly don’t do an impersonation of Streisand at any point. This is not a tribute show. It’s a funny old word ‘tribute’, the term ‘tribute show’ has taken on a completely different meaning. Yet to pay tribute to someone is to show huge respect and that is what I hope I do in this show. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination an impersonation, it is my way of showing what a huge influence she was on me – I weave together stories of Barbra Streisand and stories of my life, my relationship with my Mum and Father and draw some parallels.”
“It started because I was singing ‘Evergreen’ in the old show – Hollywood, and so many people said ‘you sound so like Barbra Streisand’ and I thought a) how amazing is that, what a great compliment and b) how on earth did that happen? And I started to look back and realised that she has been this massive influence in my life.”
“We started last year and we had some amazing shows, all the audience’s reaction have just been phenomenal. I have to admit that when I first started those shows last Spring, I went out with my heart in my hand thinking ‘what am I doing? I am just completely setting myself up for a fall – people are going to say oh you know she thinks she can sing Barbra Streisand! What seems to have happened is that people have had a great night, they love the music, they love the band, there is a huge amount of laughter and fun – as you might imagine after all those years spent in Fascinating Aida, I am not capable of not being a little bit naughty on stage!”
Are you ever tempted to drop in ‘Cheap Flights’ or ‘The Christmas Song’?
“Sadly Barbra Streisand never sang any Fascinating Aida songs! I would love to do The Christmas Song at any time of the year!”
On this tour you play twice with the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass band – how different is that from playing with your own band?
“In all honesty we haven’t done a show yet! We recorded the singles, ‘The Way We Were’ and ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ and Joe Atkins my amazing musical director orchestrated our show version for the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass band and we had such an amazing time doing it that a lot of the theatres that were booking the Streisand show asked if there was any chance of doing with the Brighouse – and so we do our first at the Liverpool Phil and another one the next day at Darlington Hippodrome. It will be a different type of show but still with our Streisand show at the heart of it.”
Two final questions – do you have a favourite Streisand song?
“That is a difficult question, partly because her reach spreads across so many different styles of music. But I think for me it is ‘Happy Days’. Originally written in the 1920s, it came out of the depression, it was really perky and upbeat and she did what she does best, to take that song and give it her own spin – a totally updated, bluesy, grungy number. That’s the song I love to sing most in this show”
Do you have a favourite love song?
“That would have to be ‘The Way We Were’ partly because I grew up totally in love with that movie!”
Thank you Liza for your time, it has been a pleasure talking to you and we look forward to seeing and hearing you at The Apex at the end of March.
Liza Pulman Sings Streisand opens at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds on 21st March and you can also catch it on 23rd March at The Mercury Theatre in Colchester. The full tour is as follows:
- Wednesday, March 21st – BURY ST EDMUNDS – The Apex
- Friday, March 23rd – COLCHESTER – Mercury Theatre
Monday, March 26th – LONDON – Crazy Coqs
Tuesday, March 27th – LONDON – Crazy Coqs
Sunday, April 15th – EASTBOURNE – Royal Hippodrome Theatre
Monday, April 23rd – LONDON – Crazy Coqs
Tuesday, April 24th – LONDON – Crazy Coqs
Wednesday, April 25th – SWANSEA – Swansea Grand Theatre
- Sunday, April 29th – LIVERPOOL – Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
- Monday, April 30th – DARLINGTON – Darlington Hippodrome
- featuring The Brighouse & Rastrick Band
Wednesday, May 9th – RADLETT – The Radlett Centre
Thursday, May 10th – MILTON KEYNES – Stables
Friday, May 11th – STAFFORD – Gatehouse Theatre
Thursday, May 24th – CHATHAM – Central Theatre
Sunday, May 27th – MYLOR, CORNWALL – Porloe Farm Big
Saturday, June 2nd – LONDON – Wiltons Music Hall
PLUS, you can enter our ticket giveaway HERE until March 14th.