Sibling Revelry – London Hippodrome

It’s been 17 years since Ann Hampton Callaway and her sister Liz Callaway brought their Sibling Revelry show over from New York as part of the Divas at the Donmar season at the Donmar Warehouse. Now they return to London after various solo appearances over the past few years, but this time, they return together.

Sibling Revelry features songs that are close to both ladies’ hearts, whether they are taken from shows they have been part of or music that are personal highlights from their favourite composers. The show is also fuelled by the crazy notion that the sisters are arch enemies, who take any opportunity throughout the performance to get the upper hand on the other and leads to some hilariously cut-throat critiquing; weight, therapy and their various awards to name just a few topics.

Above this is a show that celebrates the pair’s incredible and varied careers. Liz has appeared in several Broadway musicals, including the original cast of Sondheim’s short lived but now much loved Merrily We Roll Along, Baby (for which she was Tony nominated), Miss Saigon and Cats. Ann’s career includes performing on Broadway in the 1999 musical Swing and also writing music for television, film and stage. Her music and lyrics have been recorded by artists such as Patti Lupone, Barbra Streisand and Liza Minelli to name a few.

Condensing both their incredible careers is a challenge, but the sisters manage to do it with ease. The show starts with a harmony fuelled take on Mame’s It’s Today’ and travels through decades and composers such as Sondheim, Harold Arden, Stephen Schwartz and Jule Styne. We are blessed with solo performances from both of them. Ann is able to switch from the brassy and bold ‘Rhythm in My Nursery Rhymes’, showcasing her unusual skill of producing brass band sounds with her own vocal folds, to instantly giving an emotionally charged version of ‘Old Friend’. We also hear two powerhouse numbers in the second act from her that blow the roof of the Matcham Room, both of which are new additions to the show but are welcome visitors, proving Ann’s strength and technical prowess as a Broadway vocalist.

Liz uses her solo opportunities to give a soaring rendition of ‘Meadowlark’, perform Frank Loesser’s ‘My Heart Is So Full of You’ a song she believes to be one of the most beautiful ever written (and its hard to disagree), and a tongue twistingly hilarious take on a classic Sondheim.

As great as it is to hear the two ladies perform these songs alone, the real magic of the evening is when they come together. Its hard to imagine the two voices working together, with Liz’s angelic soprano and Ann’s jazz fuelled and soulful belt sounding worlds apart. But put them together and you create Musical bliss. Highlights include the Act 2 opening number ‘Some People’, their gorgeous rendition of Carly Simon’s ‘That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard’ and a genius medley of duets from almost every decade of theatre, ranging from Mame to A Little Night Music to Chicago to Wicked without even a wince of hesitation. We also get a glimpse of Ann’s “Judy” and Liz’s “Barbra” as they complete the whirlwind musical tour with the classic ‘Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again’, a true gem of the evening for Musical Theatre fans.

That’s one of the winning aspects of this shows formula. Behind all the laughs and the cabaret style digs thrown around throughout the evening, what audiences really get to see are two master storytellers and singers giving outstanding Broadway performances song after song. Their love for music, theatre and each other is evident in every number and they seem to have already made themselves at home at the Hippodrome, even though this was their first performance.

The West End is honoured to have this show back in town after so long and the entire of London should be sprinting to the Hippodrome to see these two world class entertainers perform at the top of their game. You’ll just have to beat me to the front of the queue.

Reviewed by Oliver Williams
Photo: Darren Bell

Sibling Revelry is playing at the London Hippodrome until 11 July 2015. Click here for more information and to book tickets