A mature artist revisits a show, revealing deeper interpretations and a richer, layered voice
By Joel Benjamin
It’s always a pleasure to hear Liz Callaway sing, her multi-layered voice sounding fresh and gently sensuous.
Her welcome reprise of her show, A Hymn to Her, performed in many cabaret venues, including Feinstein’s/54 Below, doubled that pleasure. This time around, fully internalizing the material, she found deeper interpretations of these familiar songs. Her voice has gained a luscious sheen since she last performed this beautifully chosen set, proving practice does, indeed, make perfect.
She opened on an optimistic note with “Love is All Around,” the theme of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (Sonny Curtis, Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent) and spoke of her early influences, most particularly a high school classmate who dared her to sing in public, causing her to overcome her dread of singing in front of anyone but her own mirror image.
From the Sondheim songbook she sang “Broadway Baby” and “In Buddy’s Eyes,” finding the goofy humor of the first and the poignancy of the second. She also performed a satirical version of his “Another Hundred People”—dedicated to Pamela Myers who introduced the song in Company—with hilarious lyrics taking Sondheim to task for his long phrases, complicated rhymes and frequent key changes! This version was called “Another Hundred Lyrics,” which says it all.
In that same spoofing vein was “Plum Pudding” in which Leonard Bernstein proved that he could set even a recipe to music. Callaway sang it with a perfectly straight face, letting the audience get the joke.
Since this program was dedicated to creative women, she included a number of songs composed by them, including one by her sister, Ann Hampton Callaway, “At the Same Time,” which was paired with Carly Simon’s “Being at War with Each Other.” Also from Simon, “Coming Around Again” and “Two Little Sisters” in which she explored discovering her inner strength.
She had to perform what has become her signature song, “The Story Goes On” from Baby (Maltby & Shire), this time gracefully pairing it with Irving Berlin’s “How Deep is the Ocean?” There was a hushed, appreciate silence when she finished this medley.
She ended with a sterling rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” turning it into a mature person’s well-earned view of life.
Liz Callaway is at a career peak. (Wouldn’t it be great to have her back on Broadway?)
Her music director was the extraordinary Alex Rybeck who led Jared Egan on bass and Dan Gross on drums, all of whom provided gentle vocal harmonies when needed.
Liz Callaway – A Hymn to Her December 3 – 8, 2019
Feinstein’s/54 Below 254 West 54th Street (Cellar) . New York, NY
Tickets: 646-476-3551 or www.54Below.com