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Interview: Liz Callaway Promises 'A Great Evening' As She Reunites with Jason Graae in Nashville

The Pair Headline The Second 2022 Offering of CABARET ON STAGE from Studio Tenn and TPAC

Interview: Liz Callaway Promises 'A Great Evening' As She Reunites with Jason Graae in Nashville

It's been a while since Liz Callaway last performed on a Nashville stage - it was a performance of "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra - and longer still since the time she auditioned for Opryland USA while still a high school student (she wasn't cast, but more about that later...), so sharing the stage of Andrew Jackson Hall with her longtime pal and confidant Jason Graae on Saturday, August 20, is something she eagerly anticipates.

"It will be an evening of great music, a lot of off-the-wall humor and an evening of watching two friends who are thrilled to be together and to perform for a live audience again," she promises, during a telephone interview on a Friday morning before she takes the stage later that same night to perform with her equally talented and acclaimed sister, Ann Hampton Callaway, in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Interview: Liz Callaway Promises 'A Great Evening' As She Reunites with Jason Graae in Nashville "When you have a history with someone, there's a joy of just being together," she suggests. "Those times are rare now, since I'm in New York and Jason's in Los Angeles, but we know each other so well, have shared so many moments of our lives together. With Jason - and with my sister Ann - there's just something about sharing the stage with someone who knows you so well. My show with Jason is very funny: He's a brilliant comedian, of course, but he can also break your heart with a ballad."

Members of their audience next Saturday night at Cabaret On Stage - a continued collaboration between Studio Tenn and Tennessee Performing Arts Center, which came about as the result of the meeting of the creative minds of Patrick Cassidy and Jennifer Turner - are in for a unique night of music, theater, memories and a lot of laughs.

"There's a lot of comedy that comes from the two of us being together again, but there are some very special moments for that same reason," she explains, as the Covid-19 pandemic's virtual shutdown of most live performance over more than a year-and-a-half kept the pair of longtime friends (who first met during on quarter they both spent together at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) apart physically even while their own collaboration continued virtually.

"We've seen each other a few times since the pandemic began, but we haven't done our show together for a long time," she says. In an interview with Graae, he said it's been since 2018 that he's shared a stage with Callaway.

For Liz, cabaret affords an unequaled opportunity to immerse herself in two things she loves: singing for an audience and sharing music with them.

"I don't believe audiences know how important they are to performers and for the existence of live performance," she muses. "Prior to the pandemic, I think we all took it for granted that we could go hear music, to perform and travel, whenever we wanted. Now that we're back, the atmosphere of being in the same room with a live audience seems very heightened."

"I spent two years singing into my phone or laptop, performing virtually, which was nice but nothing like the real thing," she maintains. "Having people to sing to and to see how happy everyone is -it's just very profound - and on that of that, getting to be with one of my best friends, well, I feel very fortunate."

That sense of immense good fortune is just as profound when she performs with her sister Ann, and their shows in Provincetown have proven to be an equally heady experience. "She lives in Tucson, I live in New York, so we don't see each other as often as we'd like. Our audiences get to see two sisters who love each other, but don't get to spend that much time together very often," she says, explaining that the siblings grew up in a family that included their mom, a singer and voice teacher, and their dad, a television journalist with a penchant for performance, as well.

"I was very shy growing up, so I never planned a career as a performer since I was a child, but I started doing theater in high school," Callaway says. "Ann is much more extroverted than I am. I loved to sing, but I didn't start doing that until I discovered theater! I love being in a cast; I started doing theater for social reasons, to be part of a cast of people."

And it was while she was in high school that she joined a group of friends, most of whom were already in college, and drove down to Nashville from their Illinois homes to audition Opryland, yet Callaway wasn't cast - unlike Graae, Kristin Chenoweth and Sam Harris, among her fellow Cabaret On Stage headliners this season - which proved fortuitous as she was ultimately cast at Marriott's Great America theme park in California.

After first meeting Graae when they were both at CCM, they were later cast in an off-Broadway production of Godspell, which cemented their friendship, and Callaway went on to make her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, leading to her Tony Award-nominated run as Lizzie in Baby, and roles in The Three Musketeers, The Spitfire Grill, Sunday in the Park with George, Evita, Cats and Miss Saigon (she was Ellen in the musical's original Broadway cast). For younger audiences, Callaway is perhaps best known for providing the voices of numerous iconic characters in various animated films, including Anya/Anastasia in Anastasia, Kiara in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Princess Jasmine in The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves, and as Princess Odette in The Swan Princess.

Interview: Liz Callaway Promises 'A Great Evening' As She Reunites with Jason Graae in Nashville

About Cabaret On Stage

Studio Tenn Theatre Company and Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) present the return of their popular Cabaret On Stage series, featuring four intimate evenings on TPAC's Jackson Hall stage with legendary performers, including Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth (Schmigadoon!, Wicked); Emmy Award-winning actress and recording artist Liz Callaway (Merrily We Roll Along, Baby); with Broadway, television, and film actor Jason Graae (Falsettos, Wicked); award-winning actor and multi-platinum recording artist Sam Harris (The Life, The Producers); and four-time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn (Fiddler on the Roof, Les Misérables) who sang the title role in Disney's Pocahontas.

Tickets are available at www.tpac.org, by phone at (615) 782-4040 and in person at the TPAC Box Office, 505 Deaderick St., in downtown Nashville.

Harris and Kuhn will be joined by John McDaniel, a Grammy and Emmy Award-winning music director, composer, director, arranger and producer who will serve as their musical director and emcee. Callaway and Graae will be joined by pianist Alex Rybeck, an award-winning composer, arranger and musical director known for his work on Broadway (Damn Yankees, Merrily We Roll Along), in concerts, cabarets and recordings. Chenoweth will be joined by musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell, a conductor, composer, and music director for many Broadway shows (Mean Girls, The Prom).

Performance Schedule

July 2, 2022 - An Intimate Evening with Sam Harris, featuring John McDaniel as Emcee and Musical Director

August 20, 2022 - An Intimate Evening with Liz Callaway and Jason Graae, featuring Alex Rybeck

September 10, 2022 - An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth, featuring Mary-Mitchell Campbell

October 15, 2022 - An Intimate Evening with Judy Kuhn with John McDaniel

Regional Awards


From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner l... (read more about this author)


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