NEW YORK, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Of the many musical salutes to Richard Rodgers this year, the centennial of his birth, few have been so deftly organized than Ann Hampton Callaway's serenade to the composer this week at Feinstein's cabaret at the Regency Hotel.
The star of the recent Broadway musical "Swing!" is performing an evening of songs with music by Rodgers aptly titled "Rodgers and Heart." Callaway includes some of the evergreen numbers he wrote in collaboration with lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, and a little known song he wrote with Martin Charnin.
It makes for a festive evening with wonderful accompaniment by a jazz quintet headed by Ted Rosenthal at the piano. Callaway is a beautiful and gracious hostess who eschews the usual autobiographical patter favored by many cabaret singers. She lets the music speak for itself with a few asides, sometimes humorous, on the subject of what Rodgers' music has meant to her.
Calloway has a wonderfully supple soprano, her own sweet style, and few mannerisms. She does not go overboard in emphasizing the emotional content of songs but when a heart-tugging effect is called for, she delivers effectively. Hers is a straightforward presentation in keeping with her ladylike demeanor, something of a rarity in the pop music field today.
Callaway and Rodgers have much in common since she herself is a songwriter of repute and has won the ASCAP's prestigious Johnny Mercer songwriting award. Callaway is the only composer to have collaborated with Cole Porter, having set his posthumously discovered lyric, "I Gaze in Your Eyes," to music for the Cole Porter revisited series on TV.
She wrote "A Nanny Named Fran" for the CBS-TV series "The Nanny," and Barbra Streisand has recorded one of Callaway's songs on each of her last four albums. Her latest CD, "Signature," features signature songs of legendary jazz artists, and her holiday CD, "This Christmas" was re-released last week by After 9 Records.
She is particularly popular in Britain. She recently performed with her sister, Liz Callaway, in their original musical, "Sibling Rivalry," at London's Donmar Warehouse and was a headliner with the BBC Big Band this summer at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival's jubilee celebration for Queen Elizabeth II. Her next concert tour will be to New Zealand and Australia in February.
Callaway opens her cabaret presentation with the upbeat "With a Song in My Heart" by Rodgers and Hart and really gets into the groove, letting her voice go stratospheric, in a lively rendition of "It Might As Well Be Spring" by Rodgers and Hammerstein." She has fun with an R&H rarity, "A Lady Must Live," a 1931 song with a feminist message, and the more familiar "Blue Moon," including various lyric versions that preceded the standard wording.
She shows off her talent for combining songs with an introspective blend of "It Never Entered My Mind" and "Little Blue Girl," and gives a memorable accounting of "My Funny Valentine." Then she ends the evening with a Rodgers Medley, sandwiching 10 songs the composer did with Hart between "Some Enchanted Evening" and "Something Wonderful," two of his finest collaborations with Hammerstein.
The rarely heard Rodgers & Charnin work, "I Do Not Know A Day I Did Not Love You" from the 1970 Broadway show "Two By Two" is delivered with charming sincerity as a preamble to Callaway's closing R&H anthem, "You'll Never Walk Alone." That's about as inspirational as a show song is likely to get, and Callaway makes it a spine-tingling climax to a perfect performance.