Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Ann Hampton Callaway Wows the Audience at Bay Area Cabaret

Also see Richard's reviews of The Passion of Crawford and Schonberg

Singer, composer, actress and pianist Ann Hampton Callaway wowed the audience on Sunday, May 14th at the opening of the 2006 Bay Area Cabaret show at the Marines Memorial Crystal Ballroom in San Francisco. For over 100 minutes, Ms. Callaway regaled the audience with an interesting potpourri of songs ranging from jazz classics to great standards. This wonderful artist has a voice that falls somewhere between jazz and Broadway. Ms. Callaway is audience friendly and she projects that special talent for deprecation. Not only is she a vibrant singer but a comedienne as well. Her remarks about certain parts of her life come out like little gems.

This was the first time I had seen this amazing talent who has won an unprecedented 14 MAC awards and has appeared around the world at leading jazz and classical venues. She was also nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in Swing. I was knocked out by her performance.

Ms. Callaway came strolling out onto the small stage and, sitting at the piano, she went into a upbeat arrangement of "Swing Away the Blues" with scat singing like the divine Ella Fitzgerald (this song will be on her album Blues in the Night, to be released in August). Ann grew up in Chicago loving the records of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald. She offered great imitations of Ms. Holiday on "God Bless the Child" and Ms. Vaughn on "Misty" before segueing her comical composition, "The I'm-Too-White-To-Sing-The-Blues Blues."

Ms. Callaway changed style and sang a poignant version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Toward the end of the song she belted out the number with assured confidence. She talked about her upcoming film role in Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd. She was only to be in the background singing "Come Rain or Come Shine," when De Niro decided to cast her in the film as a singer. She said she had to wear an upswept hair piece for the role; she told us that "the higher the hair, the closer to God" was said on the set. She then went into an emotional arrangement of the Harold Arlen song with a great piano solo.

The artist also introduced the lovely weighty ballad "Spring Can Hang You Up the Most." She sang several of her compositions, including "The Libra Song," "Hip to be Happy" and "Where Does Love Go?" Also included was the song she composed for the television series "The Nanny." She said the show is now on repeats on the Lifetime Network, which is "for women and gay men."

Ms. Callaway gave a personal tribute to her idol, the first lady of song Ella Fitzgerald, by singing and scatting "Mr. Paganini" and a soul full rendition of the Rodgers and Hart classic "Blue Moon." The singer talked about writing a love song for Barbra Streisand to sing at her wedding to James Brolin. It took five weeks to write the lyrics to the song, titled "I've Dreamed of You," which is stunning. Barbra was so impressed with the song that she told Ann she would use it on her fourth farewell tour. The audience then joined her in a swinging '30s arrangement of "The Glory of Love."

As her signature, Ms. Callaway told the audience she is a songwriter and she wanted them to yell out words or phrases for a Mother Day's song that she would compose immediately. The audience yelled out phrases like "Why didn't you call," "If I ain't happy, no one's happy," "where are the boys now," "shopping in New York" and words like "painful" and "natural." On the spot, she composed a blues arrangement of a new song. The artist closed her set with an affecting version of Johnny Mercer's "Blues in the Night" which she sang in the Broadway production of Swing.

For more information on Bay Area Cabaret, visit

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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