IT'S been 18 months since I last donned my critic's hat - like so many people I've been missing the joys and escapism of live theatre.

We are still a long way off from seeing packed venues yet the ball is rolling with social distancing and face masks required.

The New Brighton Pavilion clearly have the situation under control with operational gudelines in place for track and trace.

It was a warm and welcoming way to officially break theatrical lockdown in the company of a home-grown show now celebrating its tenth year.

Judy and Liza - the musical is more than a showcase for two West End performers, it is also a well-structured biography of the famous mother and daughter and their complex on and off stage relationshp.

Wirral Globe:

Helen Sheals and Emma Dears in production shot from 'Judy & Liza': Pic: Andrew AB

Emma Dears as Liza Minnelli and Helen Sheals as Judy Garland convey more than 20 songs many of which ironically mirrored the real lives of the two legendary stars such as I was born in a trunk, The man that got away and Maybe this time.

The production - under two hours including interval - uses a simple, but effective, devise of Judy and Lisa flicking through a photo album at the London Palladium in 1964.

Images are projected onto a back screen as the story of their success and the bitter-sweet price they had to pay is relayed.

There are few props or special effects but costume changes add sparkle to very strong performances spliced with witty dialogue from both accomplished actresses.

Written and created by Emma and aided by musical director Francis Goodhand and arranger Mike England, joy and poignancy are shown in equal measure.

Wirral Globe:

Helen Sheals and Emma Dears in production shot from 'Judy & Liza': Pic: Andrew AB

Emma has included plenty of biographical detail.

Though I did wonder what inspired the name change from Gumm to Garland?

There is dramatic intensity throughout notably in a stripped down version of Over the rainbow from a sobbing Judy.

And there is zest in abundance too especially in Liza's iconic Cabaret number.

This is a swell show and one that continues to grow in reputation all over the UK as it enters its second decade.

A double Tour-de-force.

Four stars

Forthcoming dates:

Theatre Clwyd, June 13 - two shows.

St Helens Theatre Royal - October 13

Warrington Parr Hall - October 20.

Details and tickets: