Liz Callaway makes her London solo debut at The Crazy Coqs. Delightfully restrained, with heartfelt honesty, this is an elegant performance. Read the review here
Among other musical theatre achievements, Callaway received a Tony nomination for her performance in Baby, starred in Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along and originated Young Sally in Follies. She has also voiced animated films, made numerous recordings, and even worked as Barbara Streisand’s double!
Opening full of hopeful anticipation with “Something’s Coming”, she followed with an unusual choice for a second song, “You Don’t Own Me”. She has eclectic tastes in music, with a particular love of the 60s era, and this programme is largely romantic, reflective and an almost wistful look at the world.
She has an exquisite soprano voice and, though her style is not classical, there is a purity and simplicity rarely heard these days. The two qualities that struck me throughout the evening were her naturalness, and a beguiling, almost unnerving air of innocence.
Contrary to what one might expect from a Broadway star, there is nothing ‘showy’ about her. With exemplary technique, each song is pared and simple, creating the illusion of being easy, and expressing the lyrics with taste and integrity.
It seems she has always been modest. A little bird let me know that as a child, her family were not even aware she could sing until coming home one day, they heard glorious sounds emanating from her bedroom. Subsequent to this discovery, she was told to come downstairs whenever the family had guests to sing for them. She duly did so, but the assembled company had to turn their backs before she would oblige.
Less shy now, the audience responded warmly to her passionate and beautifully crafted medley of Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We?” and the middle section of “McArthur Park”, which was followed by a selection of musical theatre favourites, delighting Sondheim fans with a unique take on “Another 100 People”, and a truly sublime rendition of “Losing My Mind”.
I also liked her version of “What Else Do I Need?”, but for me, the standout songs included “Since You Stayed Here” from an unknown off-Broadway show Brownstone, “Memory” from Cats, where she was Broadway’s Grizabella – she was brave enough to sing that in front of Elaine Paige sitting in the audience- and “Meadowlark”, where the delicacy of Callaway’s vocals contrasted strikingly with the robust and stirring playing of excellent MD Alex Rybeck. Rybeck also displayed a lovely singing voice himself providing additional vocals.
The last time Callaway performed in London was 15 years ago in Sibling Revelry with her sister at the Donmar Warehouse. I hope this time she will return rather sooner.