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Jennifer Walls on Liza Minnelli

“Liza Minnelli endures as a gay icon because of her resilience, her fighting spirit and her unapologetic belief in who she is and what she does.

“Gay men just get Liza, and she gets them — the music, the emotions, the desire to be who you are no questions asked,” says impersonator and singer Jennifer Walls, whose one-woman show Liza Live! opens at the Bathurst Street Theatre as part of the Next Stage Festival on Wed, Jan 2. “It’s a perfect fit.

“Plus she’s also no stranger to it: Her father, Vincent Minnelli, was gay himself, as was her first husband, Peter Allen.”

Walls says her fascination with Liza goes back to working on the talent show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria with Andrew Lloyd Webber. “I had the chance to perform at the Palladium Theatre in London, a venue Liza once graced the stage of with her mother Judy Garland.”

Walls developed the show while co-hosting an open mic night at Church Street bar Statler’s. “Statler’s is an amazing place in terms of the diversity of the gay crowd that comes there, “says Walls, “the old guard who still come there to drink, and younger guys just coming out of the closet or just moving into the city. I’ve worked really hard, along with my bandmates Donavon LeNabat and Jamie Bird to make our Monday nights a space free of judgment but full of fun and song. And that’s what Liza’s really about — good times and great singing.”

As for her homage to Liza, Walls says she “wants to share with everyone the real truths behind the ecstasy and agony of Liza Minnelli. Whether her story’s been meaningful to you for a few days or for many years, we all can learn something about how to be yourself… and look damn good doing it!”

For show times and other Next Stage Festival offerings go to fringetoronto.com.