- CHARITY BENEFIT
Written By Joel Benjamin
September 26th, 2012
Ann Hampton Callaway has a huge, almost operatic, pop/jazz voice which she combines with a warm, generous spirit. Her sold-out Streisand Songbook show at the handsome 54 Below was not only a tribute to one of the singers who most influenced her, but a focusing of her artistic resources—which are plentiful—onto some of the songs that Streisand made famous. In the process Callaway displayed every aspect of her talent, told some Barbra stories and revealed a few autobiographical tidbits in a hugely successful show.
Dressed in a tight, formal black gown, she began with “Starting Here, Starting Now” (Shire) in a bouncy waltz arrangement which was not as urgent as Streisand’s. Clearly Callaway’s goal was not to imitate Streisand, but to use her songs to make her own musical points. For instance, her “Sleepin’ Bee” (Arlen/Capote) was not dreamy or drawn out and had little piano trills that gave it a light touch. “Down With Love” (Arlen/Harburg) was jazzier, with a finger snapping beat, enhanced by cool solos by her three musicians, Ted Rosenthal on Piano, Martin Wind on Bass and Tim Horner on Drums and Percussion.
Callaway, who is famous to most people for writing the title song for the “Nanny” series, which she also sang under the opening credits, excitedly and proudly sang two of her songs that Streisand recorded. The first, “At the Same Time,” was a pensive look at the delicious ironies of life, which took ten years from its composition to Streisand’s recording. The second, for which she labored over the lyrics to music by Lovland, was sung at Streisand’s wedding: “I’ve Dreamed of You” was a delicately written, love-at-first-sight song for which Callaway skillfully accompanied herself on the piano.
Two numbers were extraordinarily moving. A medley of “People” (Styne/Merrill) & “Being Alive” (Sondheim) somehow enhanced each other. Callaway’s unsentimental but deeply felt interpretation made perfect sense of the pairing. The other was “A Piece of Sky” (LeGrand/The Bergmans) from Yentl. Callaway sang it with a thrilling urgency, catching the aching yearning of the song.
Ironically, Callaway’s style is closer to Ella Fitzgerald’s, another inspiration. This pure singing style, paired with her take on Streisand’s overheated interpretations, brought out the best in Callaway, particularly in her encore of “On a Clear Day/Happy Days” (Lane/Lerner & Ager/Yellen) which soared, yet never was over the top.
The arrangements, many by Callaway herself, were the icing on the cake of a brilliant performance. They were sophisticated and witty, played with total professionalism by her little band.
Ann Hampton Callaway – 54 Below 254 West 54th St. (bet. Broadway & 8th Ave.) September 25th-29th at 8:30 pm & September 28th & 29th at 11:00 pm
Tickets: 866-468-7619 or 54below.com’
Live performance/post performance photos: Russ Weatherford