Liz Callaway sings Maltby & Shire at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
by Susan Hasho
There is no better ambassador for Maltby and Shire than Liz Callaway. She received a Tony nomination for her role as Lizzie in their Broadway musical Baby, and has performed their songs throughout her career in revues and concerts. Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire are masters of telling stories in song, mapping a rich emotional life with lyrics often subtle and surprising and peppered with humor. The simple honesty of her style and the beautiful clarity of her singing are a perfect channel for the lyrics and a dynamic expression of their music.
Wednesday evening, Ms. Callaway was a master of clarity and startlingly clear-eyed revelation. The evening, titled The Story Goes On: Liz Callaway sings Maltby & Shire began at the beginning, with “Song of Me” (The River)—life from the perspective of a baby. She spoke about her own history: coming to New York at the age of 19 and landing a job immediately with the Sondheim show Merrily We Roll Along; and then, as a young singer volunteering to sing for Maltby & Shire so they could hear how their new songs sounded, which was, unbeknownst to her, an extended audition for her role in Baby.
The revue Starting Here Starting Now was featured all through the evening with “Just Across the River,” “Crossword Puzzle,” “ I Hear Bells,” and “Travel”—so much an open love song to her husband. She did a touching and funny duet, “What Could Be Better,” with the actor Todd Graff who played her husband in Baby. And there was another surprise duet with Kate Baldwin, singing “It’s Never That Easy” (from River) and Callaway singing “I’ve Been Here Before” (from the revue Closer Than Ever) that was spine-tingling.
She moved toward the end of the evening, with an intimate mix of “I Don’t Remember Christmas” (Starting Here, Starting Now) and “Patterns” (included in Closer Than Ever) which was a more personal soliloquy than performance—and riveting.
And, finally, she sang the masterpiece of a song, “The Story Goes On” from Baby that was her show-stopping moment in the musical. She just knocks a song into the stratosphere seemingly without effort or pretense—how can a lady be so easy and so brilliant? Ah, you need to see her to answer that question.
Liz Callaway Sings Maltby & Shire took place at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center, NYC on Wednesday, March 30 as part of the American Songbook Series which concludes next week with Rick Barry in the Atrium. www.americansongbook.org
Photos: Kevin Yatarola