Tony-nominated actress, singer Liz Callaway takes stage this weekend at Civic Center

Liz Callaway comes to Farmington two years after original concert was postponed

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Callaway performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16 at the Farmington Civic Center.
  • Tickets are $14 and $18 at fmtn.org/shows or 505-599-1148.
  • Callaway made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along."

FARMINGTON — Liz Callaway is a tennis fan, so it's no wonder that she looks to the words of a legend of that sport, Billie Jean King, for inspiration when it comes to dealing with her anxiety about performing onstage by herself.

"She said, 'Pressure is a privilege,'" Callaway said, describing how she has taken King's words to heart and learned to conquer her stage fright. "But there are times I still have to tell myself that. There are times when I ask myself, 'Why am I not a travel agent?' But as soon as I walk out onstage, I love it. I'm home."

Callaway, a Tony Award-nominated Broadway actress and singer, and Emmy Award-winning TV host, will perform this weekend in Farmington in a concert that originally was scheduled for two years ago but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said like a lot of her peers, she used to take for granted the opportunity perform in front of a large crowd. But the pandemic, and the enforced idleness that came with it, changed her mind about that, she said.

Actress and singer Liz Callaway performs a concert of Broadway hits, movie tunes and 1960s pop songs this weekend at the Farmington Civic Center.

"Nothing compares to singing to a real audience," Callaway said. "I'm savoring every moment I do that now."

Callaway made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along" before going on to earn a Tony nomination for her role in "Baby" and spending five years performing as Grizabella in "Cats." But she said she gets something different from her concerts than she does from acting, especially since she makes a habit of telling stories between songs to illustrate how the material she has chosen to perform is meaningful to her.

"I like to kind of craft an all-around evening as opposed to a typical concert where it's just song after song," she said.

Those kinds of opportunities to be spontaneous don't come up very often on Broadway, and Callaway likes to use them to bring down the traditional fourth wall between performer and audience.

"This is a chance to connect with the audience," she said. "My first love is theater, and it's what I've always loved doing. But I've grown to really love this. This is an art form in and of itself. I've learned that whether I'm performing in front of 2,000 people in a concert hall or 160 people in a cabaret setting, it makes no difference to me."

Callaway said she thinks audiences often don't understand how important they are to the success of a show.

Liz Callaway

"They give us so much," she said. "And I always want them to feel like they're a part of it. When they leave one of my concerts, I want them to feel like they just had dinner with me."

Callaway began touring again in July 2021, but she said the experience of performing in front of an audience still has not become routine again, something she counts as a good thing.

"Everything is so heightened now coming out of the pandemic," she said, referring to the heightened emotion of such experiences. "A lot of songs have new meaning now."

Callaway stayed busy during the pandemic by performing in a lot of virtual settings, something that wasn't entirely new to her, given the fact that she spent three years as the host of a TV show in Boston, "Ready to Go," for which she won an Emmy. She described the program as essentially a children's version of "Good Morning America."

"I kind of didn't know what I was doing when I started," she said, laughing. "But my dad was a well-known TV journalist in Chicago, and I was able to talk to him about it. When I started, I called him and said, 'You're not going to believe the job I got.'"

Eventually, Callaway said, she came to love that kind of work.

"It was a wonderful, very challenging job," she said. "And I still do some TV and film work from time to time, and I would love to do that again."

For much of the rest of this year, Callaway will concentrate on her concerts, traveling across the United States and even to England and Ireland. She also plans to record a live album of her cabaret show that serves as a tribute to Sondheim, the iconic Broadway composer and lyricist who died late last year, "To Steve With Love: Liz Callaway Celebrates Sondheim."

Callaway said she maintained a relationship with Sondheim since she made her Broadway debut in his "Merrily We Roll Along."

"We weren't buddies, but he was a very important part of my career," she said.

Callaway performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 16 at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Tickets are $14 and $18 at fmtn.org/shows or 505-599-1148.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.