Callaway Jazzes the Movies

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[article as originally published in Theater Pizzazz, November 3, 2017.]

Ann Hampton Callaway is a Chicago girl with one of the biggest hearts in cabaret. On a recent evening at Birdland, on a day when a deranged dude in a rental truck several miles downtown killed eight people and injured many more, Callaway pauses to reflect on the healing magic of jazz communication. Musicians and audience members speak heart to heart, she muses. Callaway’s newest show is full of heart and inspired by songs written for or used in movies.

Callaway is a generous storyteller, singer, and piano player. From the first moments of her show, we get to know her musical teammates before we get to know her, as they take an instrumental run through “The Shadow of Your Smile” (Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster) from The Sandpiper (1965). The splendid ensemble of Jimmy Greene on sax, Ted Rosenthal on piano, Martin Wind on bass, and Tim Horner on drums play musical tag team on this bittersweet love story of opposites attracting and not quite making it work.

Callaway enters with a flourish, delivering “As Time Goes By” (Herman Hupfeld), iconically-delivered in Casablanca (1942). This is a wise selection to set up her construct of classic movie tunes that comprise our shared cultural memories. The film runs in our minds behind her: Dooley Wilson as Sam at the piano in Rick’s Café Americain, rebuffs then succumbs to Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) who entreats him to sing the old song from their in Paris time together with Rick (Humphrey Bogart). ”Sing it, Sam,” she requests. Callaway’s warm treatment of this song with its “optimism and beauty” brings us into her world with one of the most famous movie tunes of all time.

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