As winter 2013 fades into the sunset, cabaret artist extraordinaire Ann Hampton Callaway brings a rare musical treat to the Sunshine State. The chanteuse, performing with the famed Boston Pops, will perform songs first made famous by her musical idol, Barbra Streisand. Callaway and the Pops will appear extensively in various South Florida cities during the first week in March.
The Streisand songbook holds a special place in the singer's heart. In a phone interview with SFGN, she shares her feelings on what Barbra means to her, and how it felt to meet and work with her idol.
"Barbra is one of the most original trailblazers of the twentieth century," Callaway said. "Listening to my first Barbra Streisand album was so mesmerizing. Her first film, Funny Girl, was dazzling. Great acting, singing, so much star quality. I knew that this is what I wanted to do."
As her own star ascended in the concert arena, Callaway was honored to have some of her compositions recorded by her idol. She's also contributed on-stage patter to Streisand's concert appearances.
"I was talking on the phone to my Dad," Callaway recalled. "I got a call-waiting beep. I almost had a heart attack--it was Barbra! But I got it together and we had a dignified conversation. It was as if God answered my prayers--we now have a wonderful professional friendship." Callaway's song “At The Same Time” appears on Streisand's CD Higher Ground, and Callaway performed “I Dreamed of You” at Streisand's wedding to James Brolin.
"I bring a jazz perspective to Barbra's work," said the singer.
Callaway, who lives in New York City with her partner, gives Streisand high marks for her unprecedented support of LGBT equality. As early as 1992, Streisand spoke out against Colorado's Amendment 2, which denied civil rights protections to gay men and lesbians in jobs and housing. Streisand immediately put her Colorado home up for sale. "The moral climate of this state is no longer acceptable," she told the press. At the time, the superstar was virtually alone in taking such public stands.
"She has an inherent sense of justice," Callaway observed. "She was one of the first gay rights activists before it was hip to be. She has always championed human rights. And now she is a women's health activist. Her foundation raises important funds for heart research, which is a leading cause of death and terribly underfunded. She is there for all of us, not afraid to speak out for what's right."
One of the recent highlights of Callaway's career was performing with Judy Garland's daughter Lorna Luft. The two recreated “Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again,” the legendary duet performed by Barbra and Judy on Garland's 1963 television show.
"To sing with Judy's daughter while I've been celebrating Barbra was a big thrill," Callaway said. "There is such power in that iconic musical moment. If feels like an anthem of hope that is still needed today. Both women have huge gay followings so it has that added resonance."
Callaway is now in talks to record a CD of Streisand songs. She explains the importance of this music.
"They paint a portrait of Barbra's soul and mine and express the great human longing that drives us to sing and tell the stories of the human heart."
Ann Hampton Callaway: The Streisand Songbook, with the Boston Pops
March 1, 8 p.m: Van Wezel Center, Sarasota
March 2, 7 p.m: King Center, Melbourne
March 3, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m., Kravis Center, West Palm Beach
March 5, 7:30 p.m., Arsht Center, Miami
March 6, 7:30 p.m., Mahaffey Auditorium, St Petersburg