It isn’t often, if ever, that one attends a concert featuring a singer who is nominated for a Grammy award that very day. But that is exactly what transpired Saturday at an Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Pops series concert starring singer-actor-recording artist Liz Callaway. Best known for having provided the singing voices of many female characters in animated films such as “Anastasia,” “The Swan Princess,” and others, Callaway, made her debut on Broadway, receiving a 1984 Tony nomination in “Baby,” During the concert, Callaway revealed that she received her Grammy nomination in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album category for the recording “To Steve with Love: Liz Callaway Celebrates Sondheim.”
With conductor Jack Everly leading the ISO, Callaway sang a program consisting of mostly Broadway songs, including those composed with Sondheim, with whom she enjoyed a long professional relationship. Also featured were songs from her animated films and those from “The Beat Goes On,” her album of 60s songs.
Recently, I noted in a profile on ISO principal cellist, Austin Huntington. that the orchestra with its many young faces, possesses a vitality that contributes to its present high caliber artistic product. That energy was clearly reflected in a concert that was thoroughly entertaining for the spiritedness of the musicians, led by the always vivacious Everly.
As far as Callaway, I have had the great fortune of seeing her perform in numerous appearances with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, The Cabaret and Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael. Each time I marveled, and Saturday was no exception, at the pure timbre and clarity of her distinctive voice. It is not only her vocals that captivate me but also Callaway’s dramatic talents as a storyteller that make each song she interprets —a piece of theatre — connecting to me viscerally.
Acts 1 highlights of “An Evening with Liz Callaway” included an ISO instrumental of “Broadway Divas Overture,” followed by Callaway in “Make Someone Happy/Something Wonderful,” “Broadway Baby,” “Another Hundred Lyrics” (a brilliant parody of a Sondheim tune), “Send in the Clowns,” and “Once Upon a December/Journey to the Past.”
Favorite Act 1 selections included “Up, Up and Away,” “Moon River,” “Downtown” and “Memory.” and Callaway’s encore, “The Story Goes On,” from “Baby.”
Adding another dimension to Callaway’s act was patter delivered effortlessly and a stage persona that reflected sincerity and warmth. Her ability to maintain an intimacy with her audience whether playing to a small crowd in a cabaret venue or a large music hall like the Hilbert, is truly remarkable. Hopefully it won’t be long again before the seasoned Callaway returns to a market where she has developed a loyal audience that embraces her authenticity.
For tickets and information about the 2023-2024 Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra visit indianpolissymphony.org.