Before the days of the Fosters and the Keenan-Bolgers, the Callaway sisters reigned as Broadway's favorite siblings. Separately, Liz Callaway is a Tony-nominated singer and actress while Ann Hampton Callaway (who has also appeared on Broadway) is best known for her career as a multi-platinum-selling singer, composer, and lyricist for artists like Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, and Patti LuPone.
Together, however — aside from being perhaps the world's most loving pair of siblings — they are the creators and performers of the popular cabaret show Sibling Revelry, which they debuted and recorded live at New York's Rainbow and Stars 18 years ago.
They are now bringing the act back to New York for the first time in over 15 years, performing five shows at 54 Below on August 28, 29, 30, and 31. I sat down with the sisters following a preview of their upcoming show, where they shared the story behind Sibling Revelry, reminiscing about high school musicals, their move to the big city, and a case of stage fright that almost ended one of their careers before it even began.
Have the two of you been singing together since you were young?
Ann: No. It's so funny, I was a ham…but Liz was always the shy one.
Liz: Yeah, I wouldn't sing in front of people at all. I would sing if everyone left the house. I was a closet singer.
Ann: We'd have to spy on her to hear her.
How did you get into performing if you were so shy?
Liz: I was a sophomore in high school and I was in the chorus of a show. Our parents got divorced that year and the other people [in the show] sort of took care of me. I really got this feeling of a second family, and I realized I love the collaboration. I loved working with other people and having friends [who] I hadn't had before, and I thought, well, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to have to get over this. But when I auditioned for college, I did my audition and then I threw up. So it really took me a while.
Ann: I wrote a musical with some people in high school and Liz said, "If you're at that audition, I'm not going to sing." So I had to [lie] on the cold concrete floor and spy on my sister…She was phenomenal.
You both seem to supportive of each other. What fostered that relationship?
Ann: We both quit college and moved to New York together from Chicago and we really bonded. We had this amazing adventure of living our dreams and the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations, so we love celebrating that. I think everyone identifies with that sense of coming to this great city and taking big chances to do what you love. [That's] kind of the story of Sibling Revelry.
Was there any sibling rivalry in the middle of your sibling revelry?
Liz: Every so often someone would be doing something [and] you get a little pang, like Oh I wish something better would happen for me. And yet, we were also, without a doubt, our biggest supporters.
Ann: You get to be so proud of each other. One of the things I love about singing with Liz is that she inspires me to be my best and I learn things from her.
Liz: And I'd say the same about you.
Are there any particular moments in each other's careers that each of you are most proud of?
Liz: I was driving my car and I was putting in Barbra Streisand's new CD where she recorded Ann's song. Ann wrote it years beforehand and she wrote it thinking of Barbra Streisand. In fact, it was in the original Sibling Revelry eighteen years ago. We did it in the show but we couldn't put it on the album because we were holding out hope that someday she would record that song and she finally did. Although, as I was driving and crying going "This is so great!" I thought, I like Ann singing it better. (Laughs)
Ann: One of my sentimental favorites is getting to watch Liz do Baby on Broadway. It was her Tony-nominated performance. She was so young. She didn't take voice lessons, she didn't go to Julliard like so many of these other Broadway stars…She got up there and just inhabited this world with such power and humanity and beauty and when she closed Act I with "The Story Goes On," I just sobbed. Her husband fell in love watching her sing that show eleven times.