Broadway star Liz Callaway performs her cabaret show Aug. 14-15 at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre. She's known for playing Grizabella in Cats as well as rolls in Miss Saigon, The Look of Love and The Three Musketeers. She also contributed her voice to the animated films Aladdin and the King of Thieves (singing Princess Jasmine), Beauty and the Beast, and the Lion King 2: Simba's Pride. Her song "Journey to the Past" from Anastasia was nominated for an Oscar.
The show is organized by Bryan Batt (Mad Men), Tom Cianfichi and Barbara Motley, formerly the owner of the cabaret venue Le Chat Noir. Hallaway and Batt performed in a cabaret show at Le Chat following Hurricane Katrina to benefit displaced actors and performers. Batt also performed with Hallaway in Cats on Broadway.
"Standing on stage with her singing ("Memories") every night, I never got tired of it," Batt says. "It’s haunting and beautiful. The audience went crazy."
Batt already was a fan of her singing.
"I remember seeing her for the first time in the original company of Miss Saigon," Batt said recently via phone from Los Angeles, where he's working on a production of Grey Gardens. "I think I wore the record out of the original cast recording of Baby that she did and some other Sondheim stuff that she did. ... She has the kind of voice composers dream of — perfectly clear, effortless. Technically, singers just go 'Oh my god.'"
In her cabaret show, Calloway is accompanied by pianist Alex Rybeck and sings classic Broadway tunes, Sondheim songs and other more and less familiar works. Batt says highlights include "Meadowlark."
"It's a song by Stephen Schwartz," he says. "It’s one of the most difficult songs. There are two other people that can sing it: Betty Buckley and Patti LuPone. Liz’s version is pretty spectacular."
Batt, Motley and Cianfichi hope to launch a cabaret series. Proceeds from these shows benefit Le Petit.
Batt's first experience singing cabaret was at Le Chat Noir at Motley's invitation.
"If it wasn’t for her, I never would have gotten into the cabaret world," he says. "It was right after Katrina. People were just starting to get back. There was nothing to do. We went to restaurants. There was no entertainment.
"She said put together a one man show and we’ll do it as a benefit for returning actors. I said yes. Then I said, 'What am I doing?' It’s you and a piano. You’re on stage alone. I loved it.
"The show sold out — after Katrina because there was nothing else to do, I am convinced. Then we had to add shows. Then they had me come back. The first one was 'Bryan Batt at Le Chat.' Then 'Bryan Batt: Back at Le Chat.' I wanted to call the next show 'Bryan Batt: Same Old Chat,' but they wouldn’t let me."
Batt now performs his cabaret show, including tunes from Billy Joel to Cole Porter, across the country and from London to Australia.
He thinks there's an audience for cabaret in New Orleans.
"We don't have Le Chat anymore," He says. "I remember growing up going to the Blue Room. I saw Carol Channing, the Mills Brothers, James Brown, believe it or not, B.B. King and Broadway performers.
Tickets for the show are available on Le Petit's website.