Jason Graae is a slight, agile man with a broad, shy, impish smile. In that grin, in his quick, deft wit, and in his occasional eloquent facial reactions he reminded me of a young Victor Borge. Such comic economy! For one number, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” he laid aside his vocal cords and picked up an oboe. He played beautifully, and he did with the oboe the sort of little comic tricks that Borge used to do with the piano.
His is a fine, tireless Broadway voice. His repertoire included some familiar things—from Evita, Falsettos, Applause, Wicked. “Lucky to Be Me,” from On the Town was particularly deeply felt. But overall he leaned toward the lesser-known, the up-beat and comic. In one delightful piece he sang of “pink fish on a stale doughnut”--the appalled reaction of a Midwestern newcomer to New York, when confronted with his first bagel and lox. I could have done with a few more down-beat songs—a slow ballad or two. The delightful Jason Graae—constantly witty and joking—came across as one of those folks who are always “on”. With a slower, more casual song or two he might let us inside that comic defense so we'd know him more intimately.
Liz Callaway is a beautiful, graceful blonde. She's utterly at ease with an audience—and what a dazzling smile! Her first song was hushed and intense and very into-the-microphone, but soon she expanded her voice into a full and powerful instrument. Several songs displayed her beautiful, dramatic use of dynamics. She sang “Nothing to Lose,” “Make Someone Happy,” a lovely “Singin' in the Rain,” and a gorgeous “Nothing's Gonna Harm You.” Her voice is strong, warm, and pitch-confident. There are little hints of nasality, and there are those occasional hard Chicago “r”s—but perhaps these are merely touches of style—like the “beauty marks” that elegant ladies used to affect. She sang a most beautiful and poignant version of Stephen Schwartz's “Meadowlark”. And her version of “Memory” quite overcame the sense of maudlin cliché that hovers over that song. She made it totally compelling. (Well, she sang it in Cats for five years, so if anyone should be able to sing it . . . )
Liz Callaway and Jason Graae sang in duet for “Backstage Buddies” and a comically endless “I Can Do Anything Better Than You.” Here they indulged in delightful and genuinely affectionate teasing.
They were accompanied by the superbly sensitive Alex Rybeck at the piano.
Last Thursday's performance at the Sheldon was for one night only. For more information on The Cabaret Project, visit the web site.