Liz Callaway
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna)
Liz Callaway
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna)
Early in Liz Callaway's delightful new cabaret show at the Metropolitan Room, Between Flights -- so named because she was able to fit in this rare two-week New York City engagement between her many out-of-town cabaret and symphony dates -- the ever-engaging singer joked that her recent 15-hour trip home from Korea gave her too much time to second-guess her selections for this show. While she occasionally referenced the "theme" of her show -- most notably, in a highly appropriate and well-conceived rendition of "What Do We Do, We Fly" (from Do I Hear a Waltz?) -- Callaway wisely stuck to a program full of songs she has previously performed and recorded, which play to her copious strengths as a vocalist.

What Callaway brings to the stage is a winning, often upbeat personality combined with a pure, seemingly effortless quality to her singing that makes her a true pleasure to listen to. Her sure vocal control allows her to focus on the lyrics and get to the heart of the song, without having to sacrifice musicality for interpretative acumen. At rare times, one wishes Callaway would dig deeper for intensity -- as in Stephen Sondheim's wrenching "Not a Day Goes By" -- but for the most part, her lack of ultratheatricality is refreshing. (Her backing trio, led by pianist/arranger Alex Rybeck, also shares the credit for keeping things in check.)

For many in the audience -- especially her longtime fans -- the show's highlights are three theater pieces that Callaway has practically made signature numbers over the years: Stephen Schwartz's soaring "Meadowlark" -- which she first learned as a singing waitress back in 1980; Sondheim's blaring "There Won't Be Trumpets"; and most especially, "The Story Goes On," the brilliantly anthemic ode to motherhood she introduced in the Broadway show Baby in 1983 and which she still sings better than anyone I've ever heard.

As Callaway proved on her wonderful CD, The Beat Goes On, she has a special flair for the songs of the 1960s, as evidenced by the quartet of selections she performed here with consummate skill: "You Don't Own Me," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and especially a poignant medley of Jimmy Webb's "Didn't We" paired with a lesser-known section of "MacArthur Park."

Two other pairings, Stephen Schwartz's "I'm Not That Girl" (from Wicked) and John Bucchino and Lindy Robbins' "Just Another Face," and the theater standards "Make Someone Happy" and "Something Wonderful," were equally inspired. Indeed, with any luck, Callaway will find some more time "between flights" to do another -- hopefully longer -- reprise of this extremely entertaining show.