It’s 17 years since the phenomenal vocals of the Callaway sisters were heard together in London and Sarah Ingram (actress/singer, recent Mrs Lovett personified, and now producer) has brought them back to London. Let’s hope they don’t keep us waiting as long for their next duo appearance! This is unquestionably an exceptional evening at the London Hippodrome and an absolute masterclass in the art of cabaret. Classy, Sassy, Sophisticated and the most accomplished singing you’re likely to hear anywhere, ANY time!
This cabaret set has evolved from the summer of 1998 and the first season of Divas at the Donmar (which ran for 5 summers) which starred Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway together with Barbara Cook and Imelda Staunton (how I would have loved to have seen that!)). Now it’s just the two of them in Sibling Revelry and the sisters present the story of their varied and busy careers as leading lights of New York’s cabaret scene and Broadway musicals. Playing on the natural perception of sisterly rivalry and discord, playfully pretending to bitterly envy each other’s successes (Ann’s 15 awards that are not nearly as big as Liz’s Emmy!) they both smile through gritted teeth. However this outward presentation of ‘sibling rivalry’ is ultimately usurped by clear and present sibling pride in each other’s talents and amazing career achievements over the past three decades, and so becomes Sibling Revelry.
As sisters they really could not be more different. Ann so tall, dark haired and extrovert with the rich, sonorous, warm deep golden voice of a supreme Jazz Diva. Liz is shorter, blonde and sparkling, with a luminous, beautiful, clear-as-a-bell soprano. Individually they are exceptional – Together simply sensational! Their voices harmonise, scat and blend seamlessly. They both radiate complete musicality, professionalism, ease with words and performance, clearly passed down from their singer/teacher mother and journalist/jazz/scat singer father. Their effortless command of scat is especially impressive. Ann has fun drawing her audience in with an invitation to ‘sing along’ just as she soars high with the most incredible vocals (she’s supposed to have a low voice right? Wrong!) before smilingly saying ‘not really’ before anyone has been able to work out exactly how on earth they can even begin to join in!.
Both are luminous in their solos, a small glimpse of each career condensed into a few carefully chosen songs. Ann struts her Jazz Diva in Rhythm in My Nursery Rhymes and in the second half, an unbelievable smokin’ hot rendition of Blues In The Night. The contrast with the most intense and profoundly moving ballad Old Friend was immense and intense, and this song was clearly very meaningful to her. She completely blows the roof off the Hippodrome with a powerful and astounding Don’t Rain On My Parade giving any Broadway Diva a run for their money! Breath-taking!
Liz mesmerises as always with her ballads ~ Lustrous and luminous, and always so very beautiful: Meadowlark , Frank Loesser’s My Heart Is So Full of You, and from Baby which gave her first Broadway role as Lizzie, Maltby and Shire’s The Story Goes On. Liz has the supreme gift of making every song sound as though she’s singing it for the very first time. But she also excels at tongue twisting comedy with a glorious parody of Sondheim’s Another Hundred People as Another Hundred Lyrics (lyrics by Lauren Mayer). Tremendous!
But it is when Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway sing together that these incredible voices reach into the very soul and heart of us. We hear the magic before we see them at the beginning as they sing Light The Candles, It’s Today. They entrance, delight and stun us with songs from the masters of the great American Songbook including Harold Arlen, Jule Styne, Rogers & Hammerstein, Jerry Herman, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Schwartz, and many others. In a lovely tribute to Judy Garland who also sang at the Hippodrome, they finish the first half as a homage to her with Harold Arlen’s Stormy Weather/When The Sun Comes Out. Both have a wonderful, natural and relaxed rapport with the audience and with each other. They finish the evening with a glorious Huge Medley mashup of at least 18 classic Broadway duets, eliciting an automatic and fully justified standing ovation and encore. A shimmering Our Time by Sondheim.
Integral to this tremendous evening are the wonderful 3-piece band led by the Callaway’s brilliant pianist musical director, Alex Rybeck, who does all arrangements and accompanies with wondrous sensitivity and musicality. Joining him are Colin McCann on drums and Rob Hutchinson on bass playing with the Callaway’s for the very first time ~ they must think they’ve hit the jackpot and they are correct!
Cabaret is rarely this classy, sophisticated or perfect. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket but do not miss this extremely special performance – New Yorker’s share the special magic of these two more often. Here in London we need to treasure such excellence and artistry and make sure the Callaway sisters come back again sooner than later! An abundance of vocal perfection, artistry and musical excellence second to none.
Review by Catherine Catherine Françoise
Sibling Revelry, the sisters’ first major show together, is a wonderful showcase for older sister Ann’s deep jazz-tinged vocals and younger sister Liz’s clear-bell Broadway soprano. Its songs are linked by witty banter as the two compare their respective stage and recording careers, putting the revelry in rivalry. This engagement features updates to their original show which was made famous by their cult classic live CD. Highlights include a comically catty version of Friendship and The Huge Medley, a 16-song musical roller coaster of famous Broadway and pop duets including Bosom Buddies, A Boy Like That, Nowadays and the Barbra Streisand-Donna Summer disco hit, Enough Is Enough.
Sibling Revelry is produced by Black Sapphire Productions. Directed by Dan Foster.
Tuesday 7th July – Saturday 11th July at 8.00pm
Press night: Tuesday 7 July at 8.00pm
Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square,
LONDON, WC2H 7JH
Tickets: Circle £25-£30, Stalls Tables £35, Booths £40
0207 769 8888 (10am – 8pm daily) All guests must be 18 or over.
Thursday 9th July 2015