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Friday, November 13, 2009

Deeper Dish with Liz Callaway

I became an instant fan of Liz Callaway the first time I listened to the original Broadway cast recording of Baby, the 1983 musical that earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Her joyous duet, "Two People in Love", with Todd Graff is irresistible, but her big moment in the show is "The Story Goes On", which her character, Lizzie, a pregnant college student, sings after she feels her unborn baby kick for the first time. It's a beautiful song that perfectly fits Liz's lovely voice, and she recorded it again for her 1995 CD, The Story Goes On, after she became a mother herself.

The actress/singer has had an impressive and diverse career. She made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's 1981 musical, Merrily We Roll Along, and later played Grizabella in Cats for five years. Her other stage credits include The Three Musketeers (1984), Follies in Concert (1984), Miss Saigon (1991), The Spitfire Grill (1991), and The Look of Love: The Songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David (2003). Liz has also appeared in Senior Trip, a 1981 TV movie starring Scott Baio and Mickey Rooney; sang at the White House in 1983; received an Emmy Award for hosting Ready to Go, a Boston children's TV show; recorded the theme song of the TV sitcom, The Nanny, with her sister, the marvelous Ann Hampton Callaway; and provided the singing voices for many animated film characters, including Princess Jasmine in The Return of Jafar (1993) and Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), Princess Odette in The Swan Princess (1994), and Anastasia in Anastasia (1997).

And, last but certainly not least, Liz Callaway is a fabulous cabaret singer. She's performed concerts all over the world, and I was lucky enough to see her and Ann perform their "Sibling Revelry" show at the now-closed Yvette's Wintergarden in Chicago back in 1997. It was an unforgettable evening, and their live CD recording of the show is absolutely wonderful as are Liz's solo CDs, Anywhere I Wander (1993), The Story Goes On, The Beat Goes On (2001), and Passage of Time, which was just released on October 20. Whether she's singing Frank Loesser's "If I Were a Bell" or Petula Clark's '60s hit, "Downtown", Liz Callaway is nothing less than amazing. I am so thrilled to have her here on the Dish to discuss her career and answer a few pop culture questions.

Let's start with Passage of Time, your first solo album in eight years. What was your inspiration for the CD?

Basically I wanted to do an album without a "theme", and explore songs that reflect where I am in my life now. In other words, now that I'm "old" (I'm 48), I thought it was a good idea to embrace my "experience", rather than shy away from it.

What is your favorite song on Passage of Time?

Yikes, I don't know. I love them all for different reasons. The biggest surprise for me was "Patterns". When I did Baby, I was very young and didn't appreciate what a brilliant song it is.

Out of all the Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theater you've done, what stage role have you enjoyed performing the most?

You ask hard questions! Why don't I narrow it down to three roles. Lizzie in Baby, Dot in Sunday in the Park with George, and Shelby in The Spitfire Grill. I really enjoyed playing Grizabella in Cats, too. OK, that's four.

You've appeared in some interesting film and television projects over the years. What's the first thing that pops into your mind about:

Follies in Concert?

Incredible. Best audience reaction ever and a huge surprise to us all.

In Performance at the White House?

Hilarious! As I sang "Another Hundred People", it started to pour and everyone including President and Mrs. Reagan were running to the White House for shelter while I kept on singing!

Ready to Go?

Great experience. Got up at 4 am every day. Almost nobody knew my theatre background. Got to learn a new set of skills on the job.

Senior Trip?

Very fun, but I sure wouldn't want to see myself in that now!

You were born and raised in Chicago and you've lived in New York City. What's one of your favorite things about each place?

I love the people in Chicago--very warm and friendly. Love New York, too--so vibrant--feels more like home to me.

You recently joined Facebook. How do you like it so far?

I'm completely overwhelmed by it--haven't sat down yet to figure out how to post things for work, which is the reason I joined. I'll figure it out, although I'll never be as involved as my sister Ann is. I just bought her a greeting card that gives the recipient a Facebook Intervention!

In high school I was:

Painfully a "work in progress."

If I had to gain 30 pounds for a role, I would eat:

Anything with cheese!

The last good book I read was:

The Complete Game by Ron Darling, former pitcher of the NY Mets. I love baseball and the Mets, and it was a terrific book. I found interesting parallels between the pressures of pitching and performing.

When I was growing up, I never missed a television episode of:

Batman, The Mod Squad, The Rookies and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And ABC's Wide World of Sports.

Today I never miss a television episode of:

Every Mets game, every televised tennis tournament, Lost, various Law and Orders, and The Barefoot Contessa (thank God for Tivo).

The very first album, tape or CD that I purchased with my own money was:

Not sure if I paid for it, but the first album I remember owning was the original cast album of Hair. Also I remember buying The Beatles' Revolver.

If I was stranded on a desert island for a year, I would want to listen to:

Tapestry, Thriller, the original cast album of Company, and The Many Moods of Christmas.

My favorite show tune to sing is:


If I could go back in time to see any Broadway show, I would see:

The original production of Company. It was the first Broadway show I ever went to. I saw it when I was a kid and would love to experience it again as an adult.

If I could star on Broadway in any role in any musical or play, it would be:

Something brand new. Hopefully someone is writing it right now!

Five movies that I think everyone should be required to watch are:

I'm not a big movie person, but I love Tootsie, The Sound of Music, Best in Show, and North by Northwest. That's four. Does that make up for having too many favorite roles I've played?

If I could have anyone in the world--living or dead--be a guest at my dinner party, I would invite the following four people:

Benjamin Franklin, Julia Child and Roger Federer. And my Dad.

What's next for Liz Callaway?

What, you don't want to know my favorite curse word? What kind of interview is this? What's next? Lots of concerts around the country and Europe and Australia, and hopefully in the future, more albums and Broadway shows.

Thank you, Liz, for getting Deeper with us here on the Dish. For the latest news about Liz Callaway, go to her website at You can also purchase her new CD, Passage of Time, at

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