Rick Skye's new show at Don't Tell Mama, A Slice O' Minnelli, is aptly titled: What we get here is a single, thin slice of Liza. No onions, no pepperoni -- well, okay, there is extra cheese. Skye promises no more than he delivers, a rather narrow (if cleverly written) parody in which he impersonates Minnelli with a vengeance.
Liza is known for a relentless eagerness to please, but Skye's version assaults the audience so anxiously, in one song after another, that it seems less a backhanded hommage to the star than a mistake in the pacing. The result of his manic impersonation is that the show's humor rarely gets a chance to land. Skye has written parody lyrics of songs as diverse as "Mein Herr" and "Sara Lee" that are smart and witty. Unfortunately, the audience is hunkered down, wincing at both the decibel level and the often brazen (rather than brassy) delivery of the lyrics. Skye doesn't need to modulate keys, but he does need to modulate volume and speed. If he would give the songs a chance to breathe -- and the audience a chance to react -- this show would be far more successful. (Also, Skye's audience would be more comfortable if the cabaret room's temperature wasn't frigid enough to require a two-coat minimum.)
Skye has Liza's physical and vocal mannerisms down pat; after just a few minutes, one begins to overlook just how much bigger and more masculine he is than Minnelli. He sounds more like her when talking, however, than when singing. Curiously, when he's belting, Skye evokes Judy more than Liza -- but, either way, he does have a smashing voice which he uses in the service of fine arrangements by his bemused musical director, Mark Hartman.
There is, finally, something ragged about the show. Unpolished but brimming over with great gags, A Slice O' Minnelli has Skye working Liza's ass off, not to mention his own. Once he finds a way to apply more effective comic timing to his subject's nutty effervescence, he'll change this show from Liza with a "Z" to Liza with an "A."
There are two more performances scheduled in the current run of A Slice O' Minnelli, both on Fridays, August 23 and 30, at 9pm at Don't Tell Mama.