BWW Review: BROADWAY SHOWSTOPPERS: WEST SIDE STORY TO WICKED and More at Grand Rapids Symphony With Sisters Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway!
Grand Rapids Symphony presents "Broadway Showstoppers - WEST SIDE STORY to WICKED", the second of six shows in the 2020/2019 Pops Series presented by Fox Motors. The goal of the over all series is to "Bring back memories and create new ones with a mix of popular entertainers and musical favorites." What would a show called Broadway Showstoppers be with without a Broadway star? How could this be made even better then to have them be sisters! Liz Callaway, and Ann Hampton Callaway. When each a performer in their own right, came to Grand Rapids for three nights of show tunes and other special numbers!
Having two artist with impressive individual resumes, I was wondering what possible hits they would choose to perform along with the Grand Rapids Symphony. The Grand Rapids Symphony, conducted by John Varineau, and accompanied by Alex Rybeck on piano, kept right up with the sisters as they take us in what I would describe as a journey through their musical career. The Orchestra kicks the evening off with an Overature from West Side Story and after the Overature, the Callaway sisters take the stage for there first string of duets including It's Today, Sisters, and with them growing up in Chicago, All That Jazz.
Ann is first up to take her turn singing her first group of solo numbers "Just in Time", and "Blues in the Night", which after Liz comes out to join her as Ann takes a seat at piano and they do a duet fitting for sisters about "Friendship". Liz takes her first solo spot for the evening to no disappointment to sing "Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair", and a song from her time on Broadway, in Cats, "Memory". How many people can say they've heard "Memory" sung by a former Cat, Grizabella, but not on Broadway? It was done so well and really was an emotional and chilling performance! The next song a perfect follow up as Ann returns to the Piano to play a song she wrote, and they sang for the TV show, "The Nanny", then finishing with a current hit, perfect to finish a first act "Defying Gravity".
Act two kicks off with a variety of show tunes mashed into one great orchestral feature, followed by a duet of "Some People". Liz kicks off her second solo set of the evening, with a song she originally sang for the movie Anastasia "Journey to the Past". It was cool, because she did a shout out to the tour, even commenting that it had just been in Grand Rapids. It was here this past year season on that very stage, as part of the Broadway Grand Rapids season. Then they group back around the piano for a rendition of "You've Got a Friend" before Liz takes a seat to allow Ann to blow us all away with one of the most power house songs in show tunes, "Don't Rain on My Parade". Liz comes back and gives us a very good rendition of People, then Ann comes to do her final solo number an improve piece on the piano, in which she take suggestions from the crowd. Our evening had a piece about a female nurse and a male Dr. who attend Comic Con. The idea came from the crowd, because Comic Con was actually next door in the other half of the venue. The Dr. ends up leaving her because she is smart and that smart and it scares him. Well she meets someone, ironically called Thore, at Comic Con, and it goes on from there. It definitely shows the creativity of Ann and what 5 min and crowd full of inspiration can come up with. The sisters finish with a duet of "Somewhere", and an Encore: "Lullaby of Broadway". I really hope they can both return to Grand Rapids in the future, as they have so many songs to share with us.
I was definitely impressed by the musical credits of the sisters, and have included the musical ones below:
Liz Callaway is a Tony nominee and Emmy winner who made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. She has gone on to star in Baby, Miss Saigon, The Lost of Love, The Three Musketeers, and for 5 years on and off as Grizabella in Cats. Off Broadway her credits continue with The Spitfire Grill, No Way to Treat a Lady, Mary Little, and Brownstone. She also recently started in a on the one woman show Everything Brilliant at the TheatreSquared. She sang the Academy Award- nominated song "Journey to the Past" in the animated feature Anastasia. Other films have included Jasmin for the two Aladdin sequels, The Swan Princess, and The Rewrite with Hugh Grant, she also was a stand in at rehearsals for Barbra Streisand's tour for 2-3 weeks. Liz has six solo recordings: Passage of Time, The Beat Goes On, The Story Goes On: Liz Callaway On and Off- Broadway, Anywhere I Wonder: Liz Callaway Sings Frank Loesser, Merry and Bright, and her newest album, The Essential Liz Callaway.
Ann Hampton Callaway is on of the leading champions of the Great American Song Book. With her unique singing style blending jazz and traditional pop, it makes her a mainstay in concert halls, theatre, and jazz clubs as well as in the recording studio, on television and on film. She is best known for her Tony nominated performance in the hit Broadway hit musical Swing!, as well as not only writing the theme song to the hit TV series The Nanny but singing it along with her sister. Voted recently by our very own Broadway World as "Performer of the Year" and "Best Jazz Vocalist", Ann is a Platinum Award winning writer whose songs are featured on seven of Barbra Streisand's recent CDs. She has performed her award winning show The Streisand Songbook with over 100 symphony orchestras. Her latest CD is "Jazz Goes to the Movies"
Ann has been a special guest performer with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops, she performed for President Clinton in Washington, D.C. and at President Gorbachev's Youth Peace Summit in Moscow, Russia. She made her feature film debut opposite Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon in Good Shepherd, performing the standard "Come Rain or Shine." She recorded "Isn't it Romantic?" and "The Nearest to You" in Wayne Wong's Last Holiday starring Queen Latifa.
If you missed out on this fun show, don't worry there are still plenty of great shows at the Symphony especially as we head into the Holiday Season including two movies with live music, an acrobatic show, and Christmas music. Check out www.grsymphony.org for complete info on: Home Alone In concert, Holiday Pops, Cirque De Noel plus such future shows as Hollywood Hits, Up in Concert, Revolution: Music of The Beatles and all the other many events offered year round at Grand Rapids Symphony.