A beloved Broadway and cabaret favorite touts her new CD with a brilliantly sung program.
By Joel Benjamin
Let’s not call Liz Callaway’s The Essential Liz Callaway CD a summing up, which sounds kind of final, but rather let’s say it’s merely a gathering of her best work in preparation to go on—we hope—forever. Her celebration of her CD sold out the Metropolitan Room, filling it with songwriting luminaries like Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens, Peter Larson and her luminous sister, Ann Hampton Callaway.
She sang all but two of the songs from the CD, all of them wonderful and all bringing back fond memories of hearing them for the first time, such as the maternal anthem to end them all, “The Story Goes On” (David Shire/Richard Maltby, Jr.) from her Tony-nominated turn in Baby and the wistful “Since You Stayed Here” (Peter Larson/Josh Rubins) from the short-lived off-Broadway musical, Brownstone.
From the celebrated animated film Anastasia (Flaherty/Ahrens) she sang two uplifting songs, “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to the Past,” her face radiant. Continuing her mini-tribute to Ahrens and Flaherty, her impassioned “Back to Before” was all the more potently interpreted by a mature artist who totally understood the proto-feminist meaning of the poignant lyrics.
Her maturity also effectively added to several of her beloved numbers, taking them to new heights. “Make Someone Happy” (Styne/Comden & Green) paired with “Something Wonderful” (Rodgers/Hammerstein) somehow, in Callaway’s richly layered voice, became more genuinely meaningful, while two torchier numbers, “My Heart Is So Full of You” (Loesser) and “Not a Day Goes By” (Sondheim) were heartbreaking.
Speaking of her beloved Sondheim in whose Merrily We Roll Along she made her Broadway debut, Callaway made fun of the difficulties of singing his oeuvre with the witty “Another Hundred Lyrics” (Sondheim, with new lyrics by Lauren Mayer), a brilliantly satirical take on his habit of using too many words and too many key and tempo changes.
She had the audience singing with her in “Downtown” (Tony Hatch) and swooning with her “Leavin’ On a Jet Plane” (John Denver), the rare interpretation that made it clear that the person singing would return after that airplane ride!
She was backed by an absolutely joyful band led by her longtime music director/arranger, Alex Rybeck. Jered Egan on bass, Ron Tierno on drums and Kevin Kuhn on guitar played Rybeck’s arrangements with what looked like unadulterated dedication to the lady at the microphone.
*Photos: Maryann Lopinto
The Essential Liz Callaway (November 30, 2015)
34 West 22nd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues
New York, NY
For tickets call 212-206-0440 or visit www.metropolitanroom.com
For more information visit www.lizcallaway.com