Photo of the interior of the New Stage Theater, the audience is full, the stage lights are on, lighting up the red main curtain.
Photo of the interior of the New Stage Theater, the audience is full, the stage lights are on, lighting up the red main curtain.

From All Classical Radio Anthology




Regards from Broadway Rose

Spring 2024

Photo of David Saffert as Liberace sitting in a dimly lit restaurant.

David Saffert as Liberace

David Saffert, a master Liberace impressionist, will be coming to the Broadway Rose stage this May 11 and 12 for Mother’s Day weekend. In collaboration with “Liza,” played by Jillian Snow, the one-weekend-only show will create an unforgettable experience filled with laughter and music.

David Saffert has spent time with Broadway Rose in the pairs previous “Liberace and Liza” Christmas show, along with performing in our “Midday Cabaret” series and the 2018 production of Murder for Two.

From our wonderful friends at All Classical Radio Anthology, read more about David and his tribute act below or here on their site, and don’t forget to book your tickets for “Liberace and Liza” now!


Written by Emma Marris

David Saffert’s closet is packed with clothes—beautiful, glamorous, gaudy clothes. Beaded capes. Sequined jackets. Patriotic red, white, and blue hot pants. These are the costumes he has acquired during a decade of performing as Władziu Valentino Liberace–better known simply as Liberace.

Photo of James Valcq and co-author Fred Alley. Photo by Justin Romeo.

Photo by Jason Quigley

By his death in 1987, Liberace was probably most famous for two things: his flamboyant stage costumes, and his adamant refusal to come out publicly as a gay man. But beyond the glitz and personal drama, there was a pianist who could undeniably put on a show. He played with a relaxed and happy self-confidence, delivering Gershwin medleys and Chopin Polonaises with assurance and style, and interspersing his musical numbers with carefully crafted stage patter that sounded warm and spontaneous. He loved fancy cars, fancy dogs, rhinestones, his mother, and the adulation of his fans. He claimed in a 1973 autobiography that he was on the road performing “thirty or forty weeks out of every year.” For Liberace, applause in Sheboygan was (almost) as thrilling as performing in London for the Queen.

Saffert hasn’t played for royalty (yet) but he has a lot in common with Liberace. They were both born in Wisconsin—Liberace in 1919, Saffert in 1975. They both trained as classical pianists, but were drawn to perform popular fare as well. They’re both five-feet-ten-inches. More fundamentally, they were both driven by a similar motivation. As Saffert puts it, “I want them to feel like they are special guests at a fabulous party.”

Saffert’s tribute act began when he was working on a variety show. Back then, Saffert spent most of his time playing piano for the Oregon Ballet Theatre, the Portland Opera, and other “highbrow institutions.” The variety show was his way of having a bit of fun, mixing high and lowbrow entertainment. He had seen Portland singer/actor/comedienne Jillian Snow perform as Liza Minnelli. “There are a lot of Liza impersonators who can’t do all of it. I mean, they’ll dress up. There’s a classic Liza wig you can buy. But that doesn’t mean you can sing New York, New York and Cabaret. And she can. She can sing your face off.” He wanted her in his show.

But Liza needed an accompanist. Saffert was game, but wasn’t sure if he wanted to accompany the Liza Minnelli as himself. A friend suggested Liberace—one of the few pianists who could rival Liza’s iconic stage presence.

Saffert didn’t know much about Liberace at the time. But thanks to the magic of YouTube, he was able to immerse himself in videos of Liberace’s classic performances. With his piano cluttered with candelabras and his hands emerging from frothy lace sleeves, Liberace was undoubtedly a hoot. But he also exuded genuine sweetness, something that immediately appealed to Saffert. “Here’s the most positive, warm, generous individual. Constantly smiling, you know, winking at you through the camera,” Saffert says. “He’s lovely! He just wants you to have fun.”

Photo of James Valcq.

Photo by Jason Quigley

A Liberace show was not designed to challenge or provoke, to change minds or engage the audience with the knotty problems of the day. It was designed to wow and delight, to make the audience feel happy and safe.

Saffert realized that he was the right person for that job. Not only did he have the skills as a pianist, he had training and experience in acting, improv, sketch comedy and emceeing—all requirements to embody one of the greatest hams to ever tickle the ivories. In January 2014, the Liza and Liberace act was born.

Saffert studied everything about Liberace’s performances, from his jokes to his gestures. Because Liberace didn’t play with sheet music, Saffert had to recreate the arrangements himself, often watching multiple videos of each performance, looking for camera shots that showed Liberace’s hands at key moments. Then he had to embody Liberace’s stage persona. “After ten years, I can do it in my sleep,” Saffert says. “But the first couple years, I’m thinking: oh, make sure you wink!”

Saffert emphasizes that his act is a tribute, not an impersonation. Sure, there’s a little teasing, a little innuendo—how could you not?—but at its heart, Saffert’s act is not about making fun of Liberace. It is about celebrating him. Nothing makes this clearer than his reluctance to incorporate Liberace’s ill-advised foray into psychedelic rock in 1968 into his act, even though Liberace’s notably square delivery of “Hello young folks, what you shakin’?’” has become popular on TikTok. It would be funny, but you can tell Saffert feels protective of Liberace. Yes, Liberace was extremely campy. But Liberace knew it. It was part of the act. Whereas his cover of “Feelin’ Groovy” wasn’t campy on purpose. There’s a difference.

Saffert’s tribute has been blessed by Liberace’s own former musical director, Bo Ayars, who lives in Oregon. After catching a show, Ayars sent Saffert a congratulatory email. “I cried when I read it,” Saffert says. “He validated everything I had worked on.” Ayars now works with Saffert as music director and consultant, giving the tribute a semi-official feeling.

He may not be on the road forty weeks a year, but Saffert has put in serious time as his alter ego. Over the 2023 holiday season, Saffert played almost fifty shows at Portland Center Stage with Jillian Snow. One thing he loves about the act is that he is practically anonymous when out of character. “I would take off all the makeup, slap the sideburns off and the wig. And I would walk upstairs to the lobby where there might be twenty people still milling about and I could walk through them and they wouldn’t look at me,” he says.

David Saffert in Murder for Two at Broadway Rose (2018).

David Saffert in Murder for Two at Broadway Rose (2018). Photo by Liz Wade.

Out of character, Saffert continues to work as an accompanist for the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, and Northwest Academy, a private school in Portland, jobs that give him a very different pleasure—the pleasure of helping others shine as the center of attention. And he’s working on his first album—as himself, not Liberace. Saffert promises “a little classical, a little ragtime, some movie music.” He wants it to be “an album that evokes memories.” He records in the apartment he shares with his husband in Portland’s Northwest District. And yes, there’s a candelabra on the piano.

As much as he wants to explore his own identity as a performer, Saffert is happy to continue to represent Liberace. “Really, in my heart I want people to be watching and think Liberace is alive,” he says. “I want to do such a good job that people could just walk away and think: oh my god, I just saw him!”

If that’s Saffert’s goal, he’s knocking ‘em dead. Covering a 2021 performance of Liberace and Liza: A Tribute in Carmel, Indiana, a reviewer gushed, “As I never got to see Liberace in person, Saffert, dressed in a red-sequined outfit, made me feel that I was finally seeing that amazing entertainer.”

Liberace always said he didn’t see himself as an artist (“Of course,” he added, “if someone else wants to call you an artist…okay!”) In his autobiography, he wrote that “the word artist suggests a self-oriented, inward directed person who creates only what he pleases, for himself, and the public can like it or leave it. On the other hand a performer is frankly and honestly out to please other people. He’s giving.”

Liberace may be gone, but through Saffert’s pitch-perfect and affectionate portrayal, he’s still giving.

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