“Passage of Time”
Metropolitan Room – October 20, 22-25, December 31
Liz Callaway recently completed a one-week run at the Metropolitan Room that celebrated the release of her latest CD, “Passage of Time.” What she revealed was a new Liz Callaway. Not to worry, the qualities that have won her justifiable acclaim in her theatre, concert, and club work over the years were all still on display. Most significant among these is her remarkable voice: pure and true across a wide range of tones, levels, and colors; not only is it an immensely pleasing sound, it is like the Rock of Gibraltar—dependable and always there, and always under her full control. Her other hallmarks include on-the-money, gimmick-free interpretations that capture the essence of a song; an easygoing charm; and her onstage comfort and assurance, which from the moment she takes the stage let the audience know they’re in the hands of a consummate professional.
But there was something else this time out: an emotional connection with the material. I can’t point to anything specific that she did that was different from her approach in the past—it was less tangible than that. Nonetheless, this new dimension was unmistakable, and it cast a warm glow on the entire evening. The resulting combination of technical mastery and a manifest appreciation for life’s joys and challenges made for a richly rewarding experience.
With only a couple of exceptions, the program consisted of songs from the recording, and nearly all of the songs on the recording were in the show. [I do hope that’s clear.] By Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, “Nothing to Lose (But Your Heart)” is a beautiful–and beautifully sung—sweepingly romantic song of hope and encouragement. Stephen Schwartz’s “I’m Not That Girl” (from Wicked) and John Bucchino and Lindy Robbins’s “Just Another Face” made a strong, touching pairing, two songs about love that cannot—or likely will not—be. If that was touching, a medley of “Make Someone Happy” (Jule Styne, Comden & Green) and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Something Wonderful” was very moving, the former gentle and heartfelt, the latter becoming passionate before concluding with a quiet expression of love and support.
Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed’s “Singin’ in the Rain” was both very sweet and very joyful; Callaway accomplished on the Metropolitan Room stage what Gene Kelly did on the MGM soundstage. Her rendition of James Taylor’s “Secret O’ Life,” from whose lyrics the CD and the show took their title, were blessed with a combination of simplicity and openness of spirit. Lennon & McCartney’s “Eleanor Rigby” was appropriately dark and portentous, and Sondheim’s “Being Alive” was spectacularly good. And so it went for the whole show.
Speaking of spectacularly good, there were musical director Alex Rybeck’s arrangements. For each song I cited, I could have expanded enthusiastically on the arrangement—for example, the lush yet delicate orchestration for “Nothing to Lose (But Your Heart),” or the interesting rhythmic underpinning to “Eleanor Rigby.” What’s more, the arrangements always supported and enhanced the material, never dominated it or showed off. And the musicians were marvelous: Rybeck on piano, Jered Egan on bass, Kevin Kuhn on guitar, and Ray Marchica on drums.
Dan Foster directed. Clearly, he did everything right.
About the Author
Roy Sander has been covering cabaret and theatre for over thirty years. He’s written cabaret and theatre reviews, features, and commentary for seven print publications, most notably Back Stage, and for CitySearch on the Internet. He covered cabaret monthly on “New York Theatre Review” on PBS TV, and cabaret and theatre weekly on WLIM-FM radio. He was twice a guest instructor at the London School of Musical Theatre. A critic for BistroAwards.com, he is also the site’s Reviews Editor; in addition, he is Chairman of the Advisory Board of MAC.