Review: Liz Callaway

This award-winning singer / actress has a muscular Broadway soprano, and she can deliver both hair-raising high notes and detailed, fully-acted musical storytelling. Her current act at Feinstein’s / 54 Below, is a love letter to the women who have inspired her called A Hymn to Her. Liz’s heroines come from all walks of life, and Callaway takes advantage of this to create an eclectic show.

She opens with The Mary Tyler Moore theme, “Love Is All Around,” because who doesn’t love Mary Richards? The song is all about youth and hope, and Callaway captures that marvelously. The show then briefly heads in a somewhat autobiographical direction as she intersperses a relatively low-key take on “Broadway Baby” with humorous tales of her exciting first days as a working actor in New York.

Your heroes don’t have to be older than you, and Liz gives high praise to Sara Bareilles before performing a moving rendition of “Everything Changes” from Bareilles’s Waitress. There’s also a heroine not actually mentioned but implied in Callaway’s pairing of Carole King’s “Being At War with Each Other” and her sister Ann Hampton Callaway’s “At the Same Time” – both songs have been sung by Barbra Streisand. That’s not the only reason they go well together: they are both heartfelt pleas for peace.

Callaway has a wonderful sense of humor, which produced two of my favorite moments in the show. She’s obsessed with Julia Child, and did a little known song of Leonard Bernstein’s called “Plum Pudding” which is simply a recipe to titular dish set to a tricky patter. Tricky patter is the satirical target of the show’s other comical moment, one of Callaway’s signature songs “Another Hundred Lyrics.” Songwriter Lauren Mayer’s re-lyricizing of Sondheim’s “Another Hundred People,” it gently pokes fun at Sondheim’s willful complexity. It’s no less complicated than a Sondheim song – perhaps its even moreso – and Callaway executes it flawlessly. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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