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I didn't learn until midway through the concert that the ISO's Pops season opener marked the first time that Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway were performing their "Sibling Revelry" show accompanied by a live orchestra.
You wouldn't know it from the seemless way the sounds of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra blended into the Callaways' cabaret act.
The show plays up the rivalry between the two. Liz is best know in theater circles for her original cast roles in the musicals "Miss Saigon" and "Baby"–with a side trip into "Cats." Kids and parents may recognize her as the singing voice in the animated "Anastasia" and "The Swan Princess." Her CDs are first-class examples of how to do cabaret recordings right: Give a listen to her Frank Loesser set if you have any doubt.
Ann is the jazzier of the two. She also appeared on Broadway–in "Swing"–but is more a creature of the clubs. She's better known here thanks to her hosting of the ISO's Yuletide Celebration a few seasons' back.
For an even more localized connection, their mother–who was in the audience Sunday–hails from Indianapolis.
The Callaways have been performing much of this act for years, but the jokes didn't grow stale and the songs sounded even stronger thanks to the ISO. The players proved themselves able to transition easily from the swing of Ann's "Rhythm in My Nursary Rhymes" to the lushness of Liz's "My Heart is So Full of You" and back to Ann's showstopping "Blues in the Night." And while hearing Liz sing "Meadowlark" from Stephen Schwart'z "The Baker's Wife" is something that should be on the bucket list of any musical theater lover, hearing it with Liz and the ISO is theatrical bliss.
One of maestro Jack Everly's many strengths is that he seems to know just how much involve himself in the proceedings. Here, he took a step back, providing just the intro–and his charming little back kick as he climbs the podium–and letting the Callaways take the lead. Hardly a background band, though, the ISO was a integral part of the experience, making every number sound full. Violinst Zach De Pue played along nicely with Ann's teasing (she repeatedly referenced him as her first husband) and the players seemed to be having a genuine good time.
If the intro to a duet for Carly Simon's "The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" proved awkward–and Ann's costume at one point looked like it escaped from the Indiana Staet Museum's coral reef exhibition–the only real complaint I have is that the show made me feel greedy. After hearing the Callaways and the ISO perform "Some People," I wanted to hear a full concert version of "Gypsy." After "My Heart is So Full of You," I wanted a fully ISO-ed "The Most Happy Fella." A snippet of "Bosom Buddies" made me want to hear Ann and the ISO do all of "Mame." And after "Meadowlark," well, why not give us all a chance to hear the full score of "The Baker's Wife"? With Liz in the lead, of course.