If you’ve never heard Ann Hampton Callaway in concert, run to 54 Below, where this irresistible singer/songwriter is performing a musical salute to Barbra Streisand from September 25 through September 29. Callaway, a fabulous stylist and Broadway vet of Swing!, will put her spin on hits from Funny Girl and A Star Is Born, as well as performing her own compositions recorded by Barbra, including “I’ve Dreamed of You,” the song Streisand performed on her wedding day! Below, Callaway describes the concerts and recordings that inspired her own artistry.
What record/album was your favorite growing up?
Carole King’s album Tapestry inspired me to become a singer/songwriter. Her songs felt like home at a time I was searching for my destiny.
What concert most influenced you as a performer?
My first major concert was seeing Ray Charles at the age of 10 with my family at Westbury Music Fair. It was a thrilling night of soulful music and gave me one of the primal “aha” moments of my life, when I realized that this is what I wanted to do. A later “aha” moment was seeing Bette Midler do an AIDS benefit at the New York City Opera House. Her brilliance made me realize that no matter how large or grand a hall it is, a singer can always create intimacy. And when I heard Leontyne Price as a teenager at Ravinia, I experienced how a great singer can be a vessel. To me, during her entire performance she was channeling divine energy, and from that point on, that is what I have tried to do.
What is your go-to audition song?
I almost never audition. I don’t have a theatrical agent, as much as I’d like one. But, if given the chance, I love going in singing Sondheim’s masterpiece, “Being Alive.”
What song are you most excited to perform in your show?
“A Piece of Sky” by Michel Legrand and Alan and Marilyn Bergman: a great acting song with a lot of personal resonance for me, and an intimate portrait of how I see Barbra Streisand’s inner yearnings.
What musical theater track is the most played on your iPod?
My sister Liz Callaway singing Stephen Schwartz’s “Meadowlark.” It’s absolute perfection.
If you could invite any performer onstage for a duet at 54 Below, who would it be?
Barbra Streisand, of course! We would have a ball!
What musical theater performer from the past do you wish you could collaborate with?
Without a doubt, Judy Garland. I started a religion based on her brilliance, Judy-ism! Fred Astaire is a close second.
What album was the soundtrack to your 20s?
Joao Gilberto’s exquisite album Amoroso was one. Once I discovered it, it was my go-to album for intimate beauty. Nothing makes me happy the way sad Brazilian songs do.
What’s your favorite love song?
I have so many, but “How Deep Is the Ocean?” by Irving Berlin comes to mind. It expresses profound devotion simply by asking exquisite questions.
What song makes you feel sexy?
Whichever one I am writing…I love being seduced by “the muse.”
Favorite break-up song?
“Where Do You Start?” which I recorded in a live concert at Dizzy’s with its composer, Johnny Mandel, and which Barbra sings so beautifully on her Bergman tribute CD What Matters Most.
What song most makes you smile?
“I’ve Dreamed of You.” It continues to bring me joy that I could write the words to express Barbra Streisand’s love for James Brolin for their wedding. And it expresses the love I have finally found in my life, and what I wish for all people.