Ann Hampton Callaway Shines in “Streisand Songbook “
At the Theatre with Audrey Linden
From the moment Ann Hampton Callaway stepped onstage at The Walt Disney Concert Hall for the American Songbook Series, she had the audience in the palm of her hand. This strong performer, who hails from Chicago and New York, knows how to relate to her audience with her genuine warmth from her heart. She was charming and endearing, and what a talent! Any singer, who chooses to do an entire evening of Diva Streisand’s best hits, could be setting themselves up to be unfavorably compared. It is no easy task, and for that reason, many performers don’t do Streisand’s hit songs. No one wants to be second best. So, as Callaway said, it takes "chutzpah” and this songbird has it.
As Callaway showed us, she is unabashedly a singer who was influenced and inspired by her mentor, Barbra Streisand, but she has her own take on the diva’s songs. Her original interpretations were dynamic, refreshing, and stood on their own. She changed the tempo on some, and the mood and emotional content in others and made them totally her own. Kudos to her for choosing to bring us the best of Streisand through the best of Ann Hampton Callaway with her rich voice and easy, jazzy, pop style. She sings effortlessly and beautifully.
Her very talented trio of Christian Jacob on piano, M. B. Gordy on drums. on and Trey Henry on base gave her excellent musical support. She came on stage in floating black pants with a black top and red silk jacket which set off her dark hair and said, “I have two words for this audience, “Hello Gorgeous.” Then, she opened with “Starting Here; Starting Now” Her evening’s repertoire was in celebration to an American Legend. Callaway explained how ‘it was love at the first note” when she heard a relatively unknown Streisand in 1961 at the Bonsoir Club in Greenwich Village. “She taught me what great singing was about.”
Callaway sang Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me A River” without the anger and desperation many singers have used. She sang that song as one who has moved through it and has come out on the top and was not a victim. It was a very different interpretation and it worked!
Next, she sang Harold Arlen’s “Down With Love”, which was written for Ella Fitzgerald and reprised by Streisand. Callaway sang it in her breezy, jazzy style with an upbeat tempo. Her patter between songs was all about Streisand. At the age of 21, Streisand got a record contract, and she got the big wigs to give her “final say”. “She became the biggest selling female vocalist of all time.”
Callaway’s “A Lazy Afternoon” was sensuous and full of feelings and very easy and smooth with long sustained notes. In 1976 Streisand did the film “A Star Is Born” and wrote the very popular and well-known song, “Evergreen” with Paul Williams. Callaway did this song “my way” and sang it light and upbeat. I have never heard this song done this way. It was refreshingly different.
This very generous performer shared her evening at the Disney Concert Hall with one of Hollywood’s most talented songwriters, Alan Bergman, who with his wife, Marilyn has written sixty-four songs for Streisand. Bergman sang “Windmills of Your Mind” and “Nice and Easy” which he and Marilyn had written for Frank Sinatra. Callaway came back on stage in a lovely draped Grecian column of black with fabulous big jewelry that twinkled as she sang. She and Bergman did a very moving duet, “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?" These two got a standing ovation in the middle of the program from a very happy audience.
Callaway has written some 250 songs and as a song writer in the Village, she wrote a moving “Anthem of Peace”with the dream that one day, Barbra Streisand would record it. Ten years later, Streisand did. Callaway told us, “Never give up your dreams”. That led intoa show stopper, “Don’t Rain on My Parade”. Callaway quipped, “Who needs therapy when you have show tunes?”
She told a funny story about how she had met and worked with Julie Styne at The Rainbow Club after he had done “Funny Girl” with Streisand. Styne told Callaway she was the “next Fanny Brice” on Broadway. But, he had told many a songbird they were the next. That story led into a wonderfully original rendition of “People” combined with “Being Alive.” It so worked!
Streisand recorded two more songs Callaway had written. . One was a Christmas Lullaby and the other was a song Striesand sang at her wedding to James Brolin, “I Have Dreamed of You.” She ended her fine American Songbook evening tribute to Barbra Streisand with “On A Clear Day” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.” She showed this captive audience that indeed “music is the bridge to heaven and earth” as she and Alan Bergman once again joined hands and sang a moving duet in memory of Marvin Hamlisch, “The Way We Were”. “It is the laughter we will remember”.
In singing the signature song from “Yentil”, “Where Is It Written?,” Callaway, added new meaning as she reflected that the song was the best of Streisand’s artistry and also showed her inner journey in the words, “Where is it written what I’m meant to be?” “Watch me fly!”
As Ann Hampton Callaway read an email from Streisand , “I’m flattered you based an evening around my songbook.” I am happy this fine and talented singer entertainer did and gave us insights into Streisand and brought a new depth to those songs and also showcased her own unique and fine talent. Those songs served Ann Hampton Callaway well as she infused them with her own style and meaning. It was indeed an entertaining, interesting, and inspiring evening. I will add Ann Hampton Callaway to my list of singers I want to follow.
For those of you who want to know more about Ann Hampton Callaway go to her web site at www.AnnHamptonCallaway.com She is a singer, pianist, composer, lyricist, arranger, actress, and educator. She is from an illustrious musical family in Chicago, and was nominated for a Tony for the lead role in “Swing”. She has appeared in films.
We are blessed that The Disney Concert Hall created such wonderful evenings for their patrons. The next in The American Song Book Series is Max Raab and Palast Orchestra April 10th. For tickets call The Walt Disney Concert Hall Box Office 323-850-2000 or Ticket Master 800-745-3000. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is at 111 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,”etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills, Community Services. To register, call 310-285-6850-course # 18014. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. The next class starts January 10h For more information, contact Audrey at email@example.com
The class in for 8 weeks @ $118 from 6:45-9:15 PM ($5 materials fee payable to instructor first night).