Ahead of her latest London concert date and new album release for Liza Sings Streisand, we turn the spotlight on Liza Pulman, the acclaimed singer, comedienne and one-third of comedy cabaret legends Fascinating Aida…
The album of Liza Sings Streisand, with Pulman accompanied by the Brighouse and Rastrick Band, is released on Itunes on 21 September 2017. She brings the live show to London’s Cadogan Hall on Wednesday 18 October 2017, before continuing on an extensive tour with another London date at Wilton’s Music Hall on 23 November.
This is no Stars in Their Eyes, nor a Channel 5 biopic, this is Pulman at her sexiest and sassiest, weaving together history, humour and harmony as she celebrates the songs of the great Barbra Streisand with her own six-piece band, The Stardust Ensemble.
Tell us about your path to becoming a singer?
I always sang as a kid. My mum and my sister and I would sing close-harmony on long car journeys and my sister and I sang together for years as “The Pulman Sisters”, singing music from the 20s, 30s and 40s. We started out just singing at our parents’ parties but ended up singing in the foyers of the National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall. We were good. We made a great sound, like only siblings can. Then I went to music college (Guildhall School of Music and Drama) where I studied singing for six long years, before joining the Glyndebourne Chorus as a junior principal. It was a pretty amazing start.
You grew up in a very sociable and creative home. Did you know then that your life would be on stage?
With my mother an actress (Barbara Young, Coronation Street and Last of the Summer Wine) and my father the screenwriter Jack Pulman (I, Claudius) I was surrounded by writers, actors, directors from a very early age. In fact, I don’t really remember anything else. There was a brief period where I fancied being a vet – not long after my goldfish, Felicity Fruit-Cake, died from unnatural causes – but the performing gene was always going to get me in the end.
What has been the highlight moment so far?
Oh, Lordy! The highlight? Probably going to New York with Fascinating Aida. We’ve been a few times now, and are always received with amazing reviews and warmth, but the glister never wears off. I mean it’s the Golden Apple after all.
Tell us about the Brexit song you did with Fascinating Aida.
The Brexit song was a case of right time, right place, right subject. As a satirical comedy group, our instinct is always to see what’s happening today. Last year was the year of Trump and of Brexit and it was too good an opportunity to miss. We all met at Dillie’s (Keane) and had a very funny few days writing the song. Our first show was in front of a packed audience at the Spiegeltent in Edinburgh Festival and we had no idea how the song would go down. You wait ages for the first laugh so it was quite a test of nerve, but when it came it was absolutely engulfing! Amazing feeling. That’s why you do it really. (The video of the Brexit song has been viewed nearly half a million times on YouTube.)
Do you enjoy putting together the programme for your concerts?
I absolutely love putting the show programmes together. I love creating new arrangements of songs that people know really well and also introducing the audience to songs they might not already know. Then taking all of these songs and shaping them into a great night. Light and shade. Fast and slow. Big and small. There’s a natural flow to these things and it’s a fabulous challenge to find it.
If it could be anyone in the world, who would you most like to duet with?
Living? That’s tricky for me. I only really like the dead ones! Actually not true. There are some amazing singers out there at the moment. In terms of the kind of music I love to sing, I think you still can’t beat a bit of Harry Connick Jr. He’s an amazing musician, produces great band arrangements, wonderful piano playing and a voice that kind of makes you swoon. He’s old school! I’m also completely in love with a German singer called Max Raabe, and if he asked me to sing with him and his Palaast Orchestre, I would jump at the chance!
Who has been the most important influence on your musical life?
I’m not sure there’s been only one musical influence on me. There’s a bag of them. Sinatra, Garland, Mabel Mercer, Al Jolson, Barbra Cook, Barbra Streisand. I love the old blues singers too – Ethel Waters, Billie Holliday, Sophie Tucker. I’d like to have been a blues singer in the 20s and 30s I think. All that suffering and song!