Ann Hampton Callaway considers herself “an adopted daughter of Indianapolis.” That’s because she performed solo with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in its Pops series concert in 2014, and several times with her sister, Broadway star Liz Callaway, in “Yuletide Celebration” in 2011 and “Sibling Revelry” in 2010.
Soon, Central Indiana audiences will have the opportunity to once again experience Callaway when she appears for one night only on Friday, September 18, at 8 p.m. in “Ann Hampton Callaway: Barbra Streisand Songbook,” on the Palladium stage at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts
A multitalented singer, pianist, composer, lyricist, arranger, actress and educator, Callaway’s creative gifts make her equally at home in the worlds of pop and jazz, on stage, in the recording studio, on television and in film. Callaway became widely known after starring in the hit Broadway musical “Swing!” She is also recognized for singing the theme to the 90s TV series, “The Nanny.”
atombash.com recently spoke with Callaway by phone from her Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. home about her Palladium concert and her idol, Streisand.
When did you first meet the Center’s artistic director, Michael Feinstein?
I met him in 1991 when he first made his big splash in New York and it was clear Michael had a wonderful future ahead of him. Then we got to know each other more as the years went on and we had so much fun performing together. In fact, this year we got to do a Sinatra show together. I recently worked with him in his role of conductor. It’s amazing how gifted he is. I don’t know how he does it. I just did the Pasadena Pops a few weeks ago and earlier this year I was with him as he conducted the Palm Beach Pops. Not only does he get the orchestra going and tells great stories, but he knows how to put a beautiful program together and get these amazing charts.
What took you so long to play the Palladium?
Well, I don’t know? They finally invited me and of course I said yes. I heard it is a beautiful venue and I have wanted to play there. I think it is because I have done so many engagements with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. You have to have a certain amount of exclusivity. They want there to be enough time that people miss you and they want you to come back so that your appearance is special.
Tell me about your Barbra Streisand tribute.
I am doing the trio (Ted Rosenthal on piano, Martin Wind on bass and Tim Horner on drums) version of the show, which gives me a chance to do a comprehensive show. I love doing the symphony show. It has been my biggest symphony hit show of my life. But when I do a two act trio show it is all me. It is all the Streisand songs and the orchestra does not play songs that have nothing to do with Barbra Streisand. When Alan and Marilyn Bergman saw my Disney Hall trio show after seeing my Boston Pops debut, they loved the intimacy and the arrangements of the trio even more. So it was a good endorsement from people who have written 60 of Barbra’s hit songs through the years.
You have written a couple of songs for Streisand have you not?
Last night I was doing my show of original songs at the City Winery in the neighborhood where I wrote my first hit song, “At the Same Time,” for Barbra Streisand. It was the night before the harmonic convergence, which was going to be an international day of prayer for world peace. I wrote the song on my butcher-block table in Greenwich Village in my fifth floor walkup. And I finished the song in about twenty minutes and I put down my pen and said, “The song should go to Barbara Streisand.”
I tried in numerous ways to get the song to her. It wasn’t until Amada McBroom, the wonderful cabaret singer-songwriter who wrote “The Rose,” was having a meeting with Barbra’s A & R executive producer, Jay Landers, that I finally had a foot in the door. He loved the song and he said, “Barbara’s going to want some re-writes, are you going to be able to do this?” And I said, “Absolutely, whatever it takes. I know this is her song.” So in 1997, ten years to the date that I wrote “At the Same Time,” Barbra recorded her final vocal and it wasn’t until I was preparing my Boston Pops premiere that I found out the song sold 11 million records, which is pretty amazing.
She really loved my lyric writing so she fell in love with this beautiful melody by Rolf Løvland. He’s the writer for the Celtic group Secret Garden. She fell in love with a melody he wrote and asked me to write the words to it. She hoped I would write a wedding song, but didn’t tell me that. She received a demo of it three days before she was getting married and decided to sing it at her wedding. It was called “I Dreamed of You.” It was an amazing thing to hear about this. She went on to have another platinum hit with the song
What was your first face-to-face with her like?
I was recording my Christmas album in L.A. in 1997 at the same time she was recording so I finished my section with my band and Jay Landers, my liaison with Barbara, invited me to come to a session. I was so excited. I rented a convertible and it was about 107 degrees outside. I parked my car in the lot of her recording studio and I thought, “I can’t believe this is finally happening.” So I walk in and Barbra and I meet and we spent about an hour and a half in the studio, telling stories and listening to her tapes. It was really wonderful to listen to her process. It’s funny because Barbara seemed a little shy and usually people aren’t shy with me, but she is a very interesting woman.
Later on she wanted me to write patter for her on a Millennium show so I was on the phone with her for an hour and a half interviewing her about what she wanted to say in between songs. I got to know her and ask her questions and about whether she made New Year’s resolutions or not and if so, what wass she was working on to be a better person. I have just never been star struck by anyone but I am still star struck by her. She is kind of this untouchable goddess.
There is something about her that made me feel protective of her. I remember reading about her life and thinking, “Oh, I hope she is happy,” and I remember talking to her and saying, “I know you have stage fright but I want you to walk out on that stage and I want you to throw your head back and love every minute and enjoy singing live.” I told her about the time I was in the Broadway musical “Swing!” and I said, “I drive to work and sometimes I cry. I have tears falling down my cheeks thinking, ‘I am so lucky to be able to star in a Broadway musical and live this dream.’ I want you, somehow, to tap into that feeling [of] when you first started out.” There I was, a singer, not really as well known as she, but in the same business. And here I am worried about her and I think she sort of enjoyed that mothering a little bit.
Has she seen any of your shows?
No, she has not been to any of my shows. She sent me a beautiful email when she couldn’t make my show at Disney Hall. Her wonderful manager Marty Erlichman sent me flowers and she was so sweet. They were both so lovely. But no, she has not been to one of my shows. I wonder how I would feel if she did. She’s heard my CDs. She’s said nice things about them.
Well shame on me! I did finally sing live for her. I can’t believe I almost forgot. She received the Chaplin Award for excellence in film and it was a marvelous night and all the big stars were out to congratulate her, like Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Douglas, Catherine Deneuve and Kris Kristofferson. There were a lot of people who have been in her life as well as previous winners of that award. Her director Richard Jay-Alexander invited me to do one of my improvisations. There were 600 people having dinner after this award show and they had just put the dinner plates down. It was the worst timing, so I thought, “How am I going to have to command their attention to write this improvisation about Barbra Streisand, in front of Barbra Streisand?” So I literally named names. I said, “O.K. Michael Douglas, what is your favorite thing about Barbara Streisand?” I was getting words and phrases and I asked James Brolin and Katie Couric and finally I asked Barbra these little questions and I made up a song based on that. It was really very nerve racking but people loved it. It was wonderful.
What does Streisand think about your doing this tribute to her music?
I originally didn’t want to do this show. I thought, “Why would I want to do a show about a living legend who is still performing?” Finally I came up with an angle because the Boston Pops really thought it would be a great subject for a symphonic show and I finally thought, “Well, what if I pay tribute to the songwriters like Stephen Sondheim and the Bergmans and Harold Arlen and people who really shaped her musical identity?” She loved the fact that I was honoring all of these writers and she thought that was a clever angle. She wrote and told me how pleased she was with my idea.
How do you make her songs your own?
One of the things people say to me after the show when I’m signing CDs is they love the fresh takes I put on her songs. I took each one of these songs, except for something like “A Piece of Sky” when I am actually kind of the character in that moment, [and] I decided, “All right, I am going to be Fanny Brice when I sing ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade.’ I am not going to be Ann Hampton Callaway. I am Fanny Brice and I am the woman in ‘Yentl.’” So those are the two exceptions to the otherwise fresh takes of these Streisand classics. What I did was, I sat at my piano and worked tirelessly to find fresh ways of doing her songs. Like the opening number, I went to David Shire who wrote songs for Barbra and I said, “What about a jazz waltz for this?” He loved the idea and then he scored it. A lot of the people who did the arrangements that you’ll hear in the show are arrangers who worked with Barbara over the years. I came up with what I wanted to do with the songs and then they helped me flesh it out.
Being the daughter of a journalist (the late John Callaway, longtime televsion host of Chicago WTTW program “Chicago Tonight”), my dad painted these portraits of these great artists. I used that background to paint a portrait of Barbra. To tell a story of her life and in a way, for me, the show has a real thru line. I do a lot of her pop songs. I don’t do any of her disco songs. That is not the music of Barbara’s career that speaks to me. I don’t have anything fresh to say with those songs.
Let’s not give too much away, but what are some of the songs you’ll be singing in your concert?
I’ll be doing “Cry Me a River,” a beautiful version of “The Way We Were,” a very different version of “Evergreen,” [and] I’ll do “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Once I was on an airplane [and] I thought to myself, “When am I going to do ‘People?’” This is such a signature song. Then I came up with a beautiful idea of putting it with “Being Alive.” That’s one of my favorite moments in the show. I had to put Sondheim in the show. At the end of the Palladium show people are going to help me write a Streisand-esque song. If I do write a good song with the audience I am going to send it to Barbra. You never know, they might record it.
For tickets and information about “Ann Hampton Callaway: Barbra Streisand Songbook,” call (317) 843-3800 or visit thecenterfortheperformingarts.org.