Liza Pulman in concert at the Riverside Studios

The most emotional, impactful, big songs

The video to promote Liza Pulman’s 2021 album The Heart of It has her skipping along a beach and sitting on the rocks in a ball gown – a great big bright pink confection that has no business on a beach. What the barnacles did to all that chiffon doesn’t bear thinking about.

She fished it out (“this old thing?”) when she needed to do some publicity and shot the video within walking distance of where she now lives in Cornwall. “I look like a toilet roll cover” she says.

She was meant to launch the album with a series of concerts at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Covid put paid to that, so she is doing them now, Sunday 24 – Saturday 30 April, nightly at 7.30, which just happens also to be in the middle of a 63 day tour with the satirical comedy show Fascinating Aïda, which she does with Dilly Keane and Adèle Anderson.

Yes she’s busy, but she was brought up to the showbiz lifestyle. “I was born in a trunk” she says, and she attributes her career to her “quirky upbringing”.

‘Give ’em the old razzle dazzle’ was more or less the family motto in the Pulman household. Liza grew up in Hampstead where she and her sister were called upon to perform at her parents’ showbiz parties. Her mother Barbara Young (Agrippina in the landmark 1976 drama series I, Claudius, written by Liza’s father Jack Pulman) taught them to harmonise.

“My dad died when I was ten and we did our grieving by singing together”. On car journeys the sisters would sing and squabble, Liza complaining that her sister had pinched her harmony, to be told by their mother to “just find another one.”

She still loves the music her parents loved then – jazz ballads from the 1920s through to the 1950s – and has chosen “the most emotional, impactful, big songs” for her album The Heart of It and the live shows of the same name. Her mother, now 91, will be at her show on Thursday. “She’s hugely proud of what I do”.

Among the composers and performers whose music she has picked are Michel Legrand, Irving Berlin, Randy Newman and Judy Garland. She reimagines some timeless classics but also rediscovers some “lost gems”.

The show has some songs that the album doesn’t. The album is full of “gorgeous slow ballads full of heartbreak” but you need the odd cheerful number to pick the audience up in a live show.

An example of a lost gem? “My Favourite Year by Michele Brourman and Karen Gottlieb” she tells me, which is also one of the most recent (first released in 1988). The mainstays of the show are songs like Come In From The Rain by Melissa Manchester and I Never Meant To Hurt You, famously sung by Barbara Streisand.

There are a couple of Streisand songs in the show and Liza has previously done a whole show of her songs. She is “a big film buff” she says, and loves the songs of Hollywood, but also Streisand’s songs suit her voice.

“It’s the Jewish / Polish cheekbones my mother says”. Be that as it may, she has the ability to sing long lines without taking a breath and to hold a note for an infeasibly long time. Barbara Streisand turns 80 on Sunday, so no doubt Liza will pay her tribute.

She keeps Fascinating Aïda separate, choosing not to perform any of their songs in her one woman show. Sharp satire doesn’t sit well with heartbreak, but she demonstrates her wit in the stories she tells between songs. She has stories about Irving Berlin and Daniel Craig (she was at college with him) which she tells when she introduces Nobody Does It Better.

Liza is performing The Heart of It all week at the Riverside Studios. Tickets available from their website.

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