Singer brings a bit of Broadway to Brisbane
YOU may not recognise her name, but you know Liz Callaway's voice.
The Chicago native, who got her start in Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, is a stalwart of Broadway having played Grizabella in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats and starred as Ellen in the original Broadway cast of Miss Saigon.
But for international audiences, she's best known for singing the Oscar-nominated song Journey to the Past in the animated feature Anastasia. Liz is also the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Disney's Aladdin and the King of Thieves and The Return of Jafar.
She also has some quirky credits like singing the theme song of the TV series The Nanny with her sister, who wrote it, and being the first person to sing Wicked's Defying Gravity in public.
The musical theatre star is bringing Broadway to Brisbane for two nights only with her stage show An Evening with Liz Callaway. Before her shows, Liz will mentor third year Bachelor of Musical Theatre students from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University in an intensive week of master classes and workshops.
The program will culminate in a special performance of cabaret and musical theatre - The Sky's the Limit: Student Cabaret Showcase - on October 12. Two students will also be selected to be guest performers during An Evening with Liz Callaway.
Q: To what do we owe the pleasure of your first ever Queensland visit and performances?
A: QPAC producer Paul Dellit kindly invited me to come to Queensland to teach and do concerts. I love Australia. I've sung in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, but this will be my first time in Brisbane. I can't wait!
Q: What will you be looking for when you select two Queensland Conservatorium students to perform with you during An Evening with Liz Callaway?
A: For me, singing is storytelling. It's not about who has the best voice, or who is most polished. I'm looking for genuine, honest performances.
Q: What is your advice for students when it comes to making a career in the performing arts?
A: Be authentic. There is no one like you, so celebrate what makes you different. My motto is "nothing to prove, only to share."
Q: What are some highlights and songs fans can expect from your two QPAC shows?
A: I'll be doing highlights from my career like Memory from Cats, songs from the Oscar-nominated Anastasia, songs from my latest album, The Essential Liz Callaway, like Meadowlark, Since You Stayed Here, some of my favourite '60s pop songs like Downtown and of course some songs by Stephen Sondheim. I'll also be sharing stories from my career. At the end of a concert I like my audience to feel like they've just had dinner with me, not just heard me sing.
Q: You're known for your voice and you certainly make singing look easy. How much work actually goes into your performances?
A: A lot. I write out all my lyrics in prose form and really study them. I practice endlessly while I drive to make sure I don't screw up any lyrics! The hardest thing is deciding my song list. There is an art to crafting an evening, and I tend to agonise over it until I get it right. Lucky for me I'll be joined by my long-time musical director and pianist, the brilliant Alex Rybeck.
Q: Broadway sounds like such a competitive place. How hard was it for you to get your start?
A: In my case, I was very lucky. I landed my first Broadway show, Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along, when I was 19 years old. And that was because a composer came to a club act I did and recommended me to an agent that he submit for the show. I had gone to the open call but hadn't an audition. So much of my early success was "good fortune".
Q: What's your next project, either on the stage or in the recording studio?
A: That's a good question. I'm in the process of figuring that out, but I think it will be a new recording. Or recordings. That said, my first love is theatre so if Broadway calls, I'm there!
An Evening With Liz Callaway plays QPAC's Cremorne Theatre on October 13 and 14. For more information go to QPAC's website.