Liz Callaway: The Beat Goes On

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Liz Callaway

The Beat Goes On

Feinstein’s/54 Below, NYC, September 10, 2017

Reviewed by Joel Benjamin for Cabaret Scenes

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What is left to say about the marvelous Liz Callaway? Okay, no one is perfect, but Callaway comes close to it in her reprise of Liz Callaway: The Beat Goes On, her tribute to songs of the ’60s.

No one but Callaway could turn these feel-good ditties into art songs that move and entertain in equal measure. From her poignant “Frank Mills” from Hair (Galt MacDermot/James Rado/Gerome Ragni),  elegiac “Eleanor Rigby” (Paul McCartney) and deeply moving medley of “Didn’t We” and “MacArthur Park” (Jimmy Webb) to her breezy opening medley of “The Beat Goes On” (Sonny Bono) and “The 59th Street Bridge Song” (“Feelin’ Groovy”) (Paul Simon), her jaunty “Up, Up and Away” (Webb) and satirical “You Don’t Own Me” (John Madara/David White) she found depth in each song without weighing them down with artifice—just the undimmed beauty of her many-layered voice.

Also fun were her chatty, casual background stories and her rapport with Alex Rybeck, her musical director and pianist, whose tinkling, complex arrangements provide the backbone of the songs.  (He was helped by Jered Egan on bass and Ron Tierno on drums.)

“Maybe This Time,” most associated with the 1972 film version of Cabaret (Kander & Ebb) was actually recorded in 1964, fitting it into the theme of the show. Callaway turned it into a hopeful anthem.

Her adroit, quick-silver “Promises Promises”/”Knowing When to Leave” (Burt Bacharach/Hal David) showed she had no fear of up-tempo songs.

In her capable hands that old chestnut of life philosophy, “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell), was tasteful and incredibly deep.

Her encore was a dreamy “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher/Mike Love), a low key ending to a wonderful show.

Joel Benjamin

A native New Yorker, Joel was always fascinated by musical theater. Luckily, he was able to be a part of seven Broadway musicals before the age of 14, quitting to pursue a pre-med degree, which led no where except back to performing in the guise of directing a touring ballet troupe. Always interested in writing, he wrote a short play in high school that was actually performed, leading to a hiatus of nearly 40 years before he returned to writing as a reviewer. Writing for Cabaret Scenes has kept him in touch with world filled with brilliance.