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An Interview with Liz Callaway

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Now in its 16th season, Kaufman Music Center’s Bound for Broadway brings together teams of lyricists and composers of new musicals, who share their creative process with the audience as well as songs from the shows. These performances are hosted by Broadway veteran and Tony nominee Liz Callaway, best known for her roles in musicals like Merrily We Roll Along, Follies and Miss Saigon, and as the singing voice of the title character in the animated film Anastasia.

Bound for Broadway is part of Kaufman Music Center's Broadway Close Up series, which runs through Dec 7, 2015.

Though she’s busy producing and recording a new album, The Essential Liz Callaway (due out this fall), she took the time to tell us what she loves about Bound for Broadway—and why hosting it always gives her a bit of stage fright!

What keeps you hosting "Bound for Broadway"?

I love the format of Bound for Broadway. It’s so great getting to see new writers and new shows at different points in their development, and I really enjoy talking to the writers about their creative process. I always feel like it’s a bit of a tight wire act with interviewing, but it always goes really well, and it’s just a really interesting evening. I think the audiences really love it, too, because the shows are terrific. It’s nice for the audience to learn more about the writers’ processes in addition to seeing songs from these new shows.

I have such admiration for writers and composers. It’s something I couldn’t do. I’ve never done. As the performer, you’re as good as your material, and I sometimes feel like writers and composers don’t get enough credit. They don’t get enough attention, really, for all the work they put into doing a show. And the thing I love about the theatre is the collaboration between the writers and the directors and the performers. It’s such an interesting collaboration.

There’s an improvisational aspect to interviews, and it’s collaborative in its own way. Do you experience that during the "Bound for Broadway" shows?

I always end up enjoying myself, but right before I do it, I’m like, “Oh, God, this is so hard! What’s going to happen?” There’s the unknown. Plus, you’re doing this in front of an audience. My father was a television journalist and an amazing interviewer, and I remember when I did my TV show [“Ready to Go”] in Boston, I would think, “Oh, my God. I don’t know how to interview. What do I do?” And my dad said the key to interviewing is listening. So even if you think, “Here’s a list of questions,” you have to listen, and maybe you don’t ask any of those questions. I try to be in the moment as much as possible.

What’s been your responsibility as an actor in helping to shape the show, and has that informed the sort of questions you ask in "Bound for Broadway"?

In every original show that I’ve done, the process has been different. Miss Saigon, for instance, had already been done in London, so I wasn’t involved from the ground up, whereas a show like Baby, I was. The process of that depends on whether the writers and directors like to hear what you think. Sometimes you get a lot of input and other times, less. You always have some. I don’t know if that really informs the questions I ask. It’s just more my personal interest—how do people come up with the ideas for the shows that they’re doing? And how did they meet their collaborator? How do they work together? I admire the writers so much. That’s really my favorite part of Bound for Broadway—even if it does make me nervous before!

Interview by Linda Leseman