By Jackie Moe
Talk about a dynamic duo: the award-winning Callaway sisters Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway have equally made their individual impacts on the Broadway and music world.
Each has an honored solo repertoire that is sure to have her audiences fighting the urge to sing along. Now the two will join forces for “Broadway the Calla-way!” at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for three special cabaret shows, March 30-April 1.
Singer-pianist-composer-lyricist-actress Ann Hampton is known for her Tony-nominated performance in “Swing!” on Broadway, as well for her unique musical style that blends jazz and traditional – highlighted in the theme song for the TV show “The Nanny,” which she both wrote and sang. She is also a Platinum Award-winning writer whose songs are featured on seven of Barbara Streisand’s albums.
Liz is celebrated for voicing numerous roles in popular animated movies such as “Anastasia,” “The Swan Princess,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride,” amongst others. She also has a series of Broadway credits, including “The Three Musketeers,” “The Look of Love,” and most notably for playing Ellen in the original Broadway cast of “Miss Saigon.”
The iconic sisters will together bring their stories, humor, and showtunes to the stage in a fun evening that honors their notable careers.
You’ve both had successful careers as solo performers, as well as performing together as a duo. What do you enjoy most about performing together, and how does it differ from performing solo?
LIZ: Nothing makes me happier than singing with my sister! Ann and I are so different, and yet when we sing together, something magical happens, our voices become one. Ann lives in Tucson, and I live in New York, and we don’t get to see each other that often, so performing together is a chance for us to be together. And laugh!
Performing solo is also incredibly rewarding. I don’t know if Ann feels this way, but I get more nervous before a solo show than I do when I perform with Ann. In a solo show, it’s just you up there (hopefully remembering all your lyrics!) When I’m with Ann, I feel like we are a team. It’s not about “me” it’s about “us.” ANN: I feel the same way!
What inspired you both to pursue a career in music, and how did you get started? ANN: Liz and I didn’t realize until we were older that we were sort of the Von Trapp family of Chicago! With our mom, Shirley, who was a celebrated singer, pianist, and voice teacher, and our dad, John, who was a famous journalist and passionate music lover, we were blessed with what I like to call “designer genes.” We were lucky to go to a high school that had an extraordinary performing arts department, New Trier East in Winnetka, IL, where and we did several shows and concerts and got an excellent foundation in music and theater. Then, when Liz and I were both disappointed in our colleges and decided to quit and move to NY to pursue our dreams, little did we know that I would land a singing job three days later and Liz would get cast in her first Broadway show that first year! The rest evolved beautifully with hard work, tireless dedication, and some good luck!
Liz, you’ve performed in numerous Broadway shows, including “Miss Saigon,” “Cats,” and “Baby.” What has been your favorite role to play, and why?
LIZ: I’ve been very fortunate to have appeared in several wonderful Broadway shows, including Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, Cats, and Miss Saigon. Still, my favorite role to play was Lizzie in “Baby.” It was my first big role on Broadway, and to play a character who went through nine months of pregnancy during the show was very rewarding, not to mention that I had incredible songs to sing. And getting a Tony Award nomination for my performance was the icing on the cake. In our show, “Broadway the Calla-way!” Ann and I will be singing our signature songs from our Tony-nominated performances in “Baby” (The Story Goes On) and “Swing” (Blues in the Night.)
Ann, you‘ve written and recorded your own music. What is your creative process like when it comes to writing and recording your own music, and how does it differ from performing songs that were written by someone else?
ANN: When I am writing a song for me, it is a very personal experience of trying to distill a moment, a realization, or a feeling and let people see the world through my eyes. I love delving into my heart and mind and making something new that connects my private world with everyone else’s.
I also write songs for other projects and artists. Writing for Barbra Streisand is always an amazing experience involving great discipline and the willingness to rewrite for a woman who knows exactly what she wants. Writing the theme for the TV series “The Nanny” meant competing with the top writers in our country, so thank goodness I had the good sense to call Fran Drescher and interview her about what exactly she wanted the song to say. It takes huts to write a song that will really honor an artist or a project and you need to do whatever it takes to make it right. I love interpreting other people’s songs but nothing shares who I am quite as well as my own songwriting. I can’t wait to release my CD of original songs called “Finding Beauty” this fall. It will feel like a musical memoir!
Are there any upcoming projects or performances that you’re particularly excited about?
LIZ: Something we are very excited about is that Ann and I both have new albums out! Ann’s is “Fever: A Peggy Lee Celebration!,” and mine is “To Steve With Love: Liz Callaway Celebrates Sondheim.” FYI, Ann and I will be singing several Sondheim songs in “Broadway the Calla-way!” this weekend!
Finally, what do you hope audiences take away from your performances, and what do you hope to achieve through your music?
ANN: Well, this weekend, when Liz and I perform “Broadway the Calla-way!” I hope our audience feels uplifted, moved, delighted, and joyous from the love we share for these great songs, marvelous shows, wonderful people who traveled to be with us, and each other. Our acts feel like well-crafted love-fests. We work hard to make each song feel fresh, personal, and fully realized. We love how music can bring us all together and make a room full of strangers feel like a family. In a world of so much uncertainty, it is an honor for Liz and me to be singers and bring some beauty and truth to this time we are living in.
Broadway The Calla-Way!
Thursday, March 30 at 7:30 PM
Friday, March 31 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 PM
Samueli Theater, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
More info: SCFTA.org