Some big voices, names well-known in the Portland arts community, are leading the Columbia Center for the Arts’ annual fundraiser on Aug. 17.
The show, “Happy Days Are Here Again” is Susannah Mars and singer/actor/comedienne Jillian Snow Harris’ revue of the music of Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland. Pianist David Saffertt will accompany them.
“It’s a fun, historical musical journey,” said Mars, who is based in Portland.
“It’s so much fun to perform this concert, and I imagine a lot of people will have a sense of the music and where they were in their lives,” she said. “It’s fun to talk and people enjoy sharing stories and their fondness for the songs.”
Streisand’s music has seen a renewed interest with the smash success of last year’s remake of “A Star is Born” with Lady Gaga.
“It comes up to contemporary times; any age can enjoy the show,” Mars said.
She’ll sing with Jillian Snow Harris, who has multiple tributes on her resume to singer Liza Minnelli, Garland’s daughter.
According to the website for Broadway Rose Theater in Portland, Harris “has thrilled audiences across the country with her spot-on portrayal of Liza Minnelli.”
She appeared with Saffert last December in the revue “Liza and Liberace.”
After graduating from college in New York City, she started showcasing Liza in comedy clubs throughout New York before bringing her voice home to Portland, where she was featured in the U.S. premiere of “Liza, Liza, Liza” at Triangle Productions. Now a regular performer at Tony Starlight’s Showroom, Harris performs a diverse repertoire of famous female voices, including Bernadette Peters, Eartha Kitt and Judy Garland.
Mars has done various incarnations of shows relating to Steisand (her father worked with her in the 1973 film “What’s Up, Doc?”) and was first introduced to some of her solo material from her 1980s Central Park concerts.
“It was a great show, and I started getting interested in relationship between Barbara and Liza Minnelli,” she said.
Mars explained that Portland performer Meredith Kay Clark put together a Streisand-Garland show and “had a blast performing it.” Clark got work in Denver, so Mars is “reshaping” the show because Jillian and David had done a show of Judy and Barbra, and Harris, Mars and Saffert went through and integrated Liza Minnelli tunes.
“David has incredible arrangements. I love his work on the piano, and they are so much fun to watch,” she said.
No pun intended, but Mars comes from show business stock. She jokes that “Dad was a Nazi and Mom was a nun” in a “Sound of Music” traveling show, where they met. Her parents are actor Kenneth Mars and singer Barbara Newborn.
“In my household, everyone was on stage at home. I bet it was not even a conscious decision that I had a performing gene in my body. Everyone was telling stories and dancing around,” Mars recalls. “I know I have a picture of me on my dad’s lap at Actors’ Equity meeting when I was 1-year-old.”
Her first professional role was in a Safeguard soap commercial, directed by award-winning actor and director Howard Morris.
“It was remarkable I had the chance at that age to work with such a master,” she said.