by: Alix Cohen
There’s was enough dynamic energy and spirit at 54Below last tonight (April 15th) to combat torrential rain, tax day and the front page of The New York Times! Sisters Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway have returned with Sibling Revelry, a modified 18 year-old show (originating at Rainbow & Stars) that belies its age. Direction by Dan Foster is frisky, meticulous, and beautifully tailored to the ladies. Musical arrangements by the always prized Alex Rybeck are wonderfully original. Musicianship is grand. The Callaways are in top form.
We’re told that Ann and Liz are, of course, the best of friends. What begins as clowning, becomes playful one-upmanship whose highlight may be comparing CD output with the acquisition of show business trophies. The bit culminates in Ann’s producing fifteen MAC awards on a tray. “They’re smaller than I remembered,” Liz quips. Acerbic, though never unaffectionate zingers, fly. Finesse and economy work in spades.
Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway moved to New York 34 years ago after collective “drive-by education.” A loosely knit timeline begins with their hopes and dreams as embodied in a tandem “The Sweetest Sounds” and “I Can See It.” Surprising drum-only accompaniment erupts into the second number backed by full trio. It’s a natural lock and build carrying the singers through start/stop phrasing that increases theatricality. Later, an unexpected rendition of “You Must Believe in Spring” is entirely a capella as if a contemporary madrigal. Harmony is terrific; their breathing syncs.
Ann was into poetry, Liz read Nancy Drew; Ann listened to Miles Davis, Liz watched baseball. Their aspirations crossed over, but were not the same. Referring to issues with teachers, Ann takes the stage swinging “Rhythm in My Nursery Rhymes,” which fits like a glove. It’s bright, buoyant, and jazzy, replete with vocal trumpet, sax and inimitable, accomplished scat. A nod to friends maintained since early piano bar days, elicits “My Buddy” and “Old Friend.” Performance is unfussy and moving supported by gentle pop. “Love is rare/Life is strange/Nothing lasts/People change…” The two songs entwine muted and seamless.
In her first New York job as a singing waitress, Liz had to find music that would compensate for lack of serving experience. “Meadowlark,” perhaps Stephen Schwartz’ most beautiful composition, must surely have held them riveted. The artist chooses not to personify difficulty of choice (between disappointing husband and potential lover), but rather unadulterated amazement and pleasure. Her opulent voice soars as only it can. This is followed by an elegant version of “My Heart is So Full of You,” gifted to her husband of 18 years.
“When word got out what we were doing, we got hundreds of suggestions. Here they are,” offers Ann grinning. Their “Huge Medley” includes parts of 18 songs on sisterhood, marriage, love, and passing time which infectiously link to one another like a well crafted daisy chain. Unconditional focus pairs with comic timing to create a wealth of fun. An infectiously upbeat “Brotherhood of Man” has us all clapping and on our feet. This is a galvanic and joyous show. Inside, Spring has sprung.
Ann Hampton Callaway & Liz Callaway
Alex Rybeck- Musical Director/Pianist
Directed by Dan Foster
Jared Egan-Bass, Ron Tierno-Drums
54Below 254 West 54th St. http://54below.com/
Though April 19