Though they haven’t made a career of it, genial rivalry between Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway has become a regular part of duet shows. If an amusing sight gag were to be believed, Liz has good reason to be miffed at Ann as she joins her sister onstage – a little late.
Ann’s completely original, rhythmic arrangement of “Lullaby of Broadway” (Harry Warren/Al Dubin) finds us bobbing and tapping, eschewing accustomed sway. Vocal arrangement is terrific, taking advantage of the difference between the ladies’ voices and style. A “conversation” with the bass (Ritt Henn) is seriously cool.
The Callaways were introduced to musicals through film. This show loosely reflects trajectory from watching movie screens to acting in musicals. (Ann’s path diverged when she became a songwriter as well.) The dynamic in play during “Corner of the Sky” (Stephen Schwartz from Pippin) is that of Liz trying to get her footing with Ann imparting advice. There are no lyric changes.
Liz’s familiar (good) story about securing her first Broadway role in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along prefaces sincere acknowledgment of the recently passed Master. She then sings “Broadway Baby” from his show Follies. We believe her, but the song doesn’t have quite as much heft as when it’s performed by someone who’s spent a lifetime in “the mill.” Oddly, with aspirational lyrics, the vocalist never looks at her audience. This is an issue with both veteran performers tonight. Richard Maltby/David Shire’s “The Story Goes On,” Liz’s favorite song from a breakout featured role in Baby, embodies not only universal themes, but her own motherhood. It’s heartfelt and moving.
Ann offers a rendition of “Not a Day Goes By” (Stephen Sondheim from Merrily We Roll Along) which arrives palpably angry instead of its traditional wounded point of view. Startling at first, it can be perceived as the anger and impotence one feels upon losing a loved one. The artist carries her emotion into a duet of “Being Alive” (Stephen Sondheim from Company) One can’t help wonder whether changes are considered or instinctive. A signature “Blues in the Night” (Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen) performed by Ann in the Broadway musical Swing, shares musical guts and soul.
The duo’s mash-up of Broadway songs includes some describing relationships/rivalry and others without rhyme or reason.
Because Liz and Ann are unable (for safety’s sake) to meet their fans afterwards, they take questions submitted on index cards at the start of the show. The sisters are unsurprisingly gracious, candid, and droll. An encore of “For Good” (Stephen Schwartz from Wicked) closes this evening with a warm, fuzzy feeling.
March 23-26 To Steve with Love Liz Callaway celebrates Stephen Sondheim
Photo courtesy of Feinstein’s 54/Below
Broadway the Callaways
Directed by Dan Foster
Musical Director/Piano- Alex Rybeck
Ritt Henn- Bass,
254 West 5th Street