InDepth InterView: Ann Hampton Callaway & BOOM!
Today we are talking to one of the world’s foremost cabaret artists and jazz vocalists - also known for her famous rapport with sibling and fellow Broadway baby Liz Callaway - who has written and recorded hundreds of songs over her thirty-year career - including "I've Dreamed Of You" for Barbra Streisand’s A LOVE LIKE OURS, among many others - but, perhaps she is most famous for the unforgettable theme from the highly syndicated hit 90s sitcom THE NANNY starring Fran Drescher - the one and only Ann Hampton Callaway! Discussing all aspects of her brand new album and duets show with sister Liz - titled after the music of their youth; so, being baby boomers growing up with the music of 1960s and 1970, the oh-so-apropos title is BOOM! Covering Cole Porter to Rosemary Clooney to Ella Fitzgerald, Carly Simon, Stephen Sondheim and Laura Nyro, Callaway and I dissect many facets of songwriting, singing, performing and the nature of live versus studio recording, memories of starring in the musical revue SWING! on Broadway, and, she also reveals her own fondest recollections of working with her sister and many of her most fascinating collaborators over the years. Plus, we have first news of her new Streisand-based symphony show coming up in 2012, as well as the new Christmas show she is starring in with Liz later this year, YULETIDE, as well as her thoughts on filming THE GOOD SHEPHERD and soundtrack scoring, as well as her opinions on GLEE, AMERICAN IDOL and much, much more!
Be sure to catch Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway’s BOOM! at Pace University this Saturday, October 15. More information is available here!
Also, check back later this week for an InDepth InterView with Liz Callaway!
PC: THE NANNY is shown more times a day now than even GOLDEN GIRLS is worldwide…
AHC: Are you serious? I didn’t know that! That seriously brightens up my day!
PC: Seven or eight times a day, tens of millions of households have access to your theme song. Is that sort of surreal for you?
AHC: Well, now that you’ve told me that, I’ll have to think about it and get really excited about it! But, it is pretty fun. You know, I wrote so many songs for Fran Drescher before THE NANNY came out…
PC: I didn’t know that!
AHC: Oh, yeah! But, I never dreamed it would be the hit it was! So, I’m really glad to be a part of pop history.
PC: Could you tell me about working with Barbra Streisand? A LOVE LIKE OURS is such a gorgeous album, especially “I’ve Dreamed Of You”.
AHC: She did such an amazing job with that, didn’t she? I wrote a song in 1987 called “At The Same Time”, which was a peace anthem. And, I knew the moment I finished the song that it was for Barbra Streisand. And, one of my favorite stories is that it took ten years to the date that I wrote it for her to record her final vocal on that song - and, it won me my first platinum award.
PC: Wow. What mystical fulfillment.
AHC: I just remember feeling like, “Will this dream ever come true?” And, for all the GLEE fans and all the aspiring performers that I know you write for: I always like to tell people that, you know, everyone’s fairy tale has a different plotline.
PC: How true.
AHC: To have my dream come true ten years to the date that I wrote that song - and, then, to have her send me that beautiful melody and to have the opportunity to write her wedding song, too, was a huge honor. And, she did such a gorgeous job with it.
AHC: I actually won my second platinum award for that song.
PC: Fate fulfilled yet again!
AHC: Yeah, I guess she liked the way I wrote about things, so she asked me to write patter for her for the millennium concert [TIMELESS].
PC: What was that experience like?
AHC: Getting to speak to Barbra Streisand, my hero, after coming home from my Broadway show SWING!… [Pause.]
PC: Beyond words.
AHC: Trying to help her put into words what she wanted to say to her audience was a very fascinating privilege. And, I got to know how her mind works and how thoughtful she is about everything - what kind of experience she wants everyone to have. We have an amazing professional relationship.
PC: Dreams do come true.
AHC: Yes, they do. Now, I am actually taking it to another level - I am presenting this new show called Ann Hampton Callaway PRESENTS THE STREISAND SONGBOOK. I’m premiering it with the Boston Pops on May 15 and 16, 2012. Alan Bergman is going to be a special guest. I am really excited!
PC: How magnificent! That catalogue of songs is unbelievable. If forced to choose, my two favorite albums are STONEY END and THE WAY WE WERE - what are yours?
AHC: Well, I have so many favorite albums of hers that it would be too hard to narrow it down to two… but, THE WAY WE WERE is one of my favorite albums, and, I love PEOPLE.
PC: Great choices.
AHC: I love her early albums and I am so proud to be a part of her more recent albums. THE BROADWAY ALBUM was a great album, too.
PC: That and BACK TO BROADWAY and two more exquisite gems. You have so much great material to choose from for this new show.
AHC: Yes, I am going to be trying to do a whole chronological celebration of her extraordinary career. I mean, how many people of her generation were able to sustain such a prolific outpouring of hit records and keep their artistic integrity?
PC: No one.
AHC: Yeah. It’s gonna be a lot of fun! I’ve only just started talking with arrangers about what we are going to do. It’s going to be hard to pick the final songs just because there is so much great material.
PC: What about the Laura Nyro material? What do you think of those songs?
AHC: Oh, of course I love Laura Nyro. I think that was a brilliant album that she did [STONEY END]. It’s something that I will definitely be looking into and trying to figure out what of that period I want to use.
PC: I love the song “Stoney End”, especially. All of Nyro’s songs are so poetic and rife with many meanings, though.
AHC: Oh, yeah, yeah! That’s the kind of music I really love. Joni Mitchell is another artist that I just die over like that.
PC: Your recording of “A Case Of You” on BOOM! may be the best cover I’ve ever heard of that song - maybe the best version ever. It’s simply superb.
AHC: Aww, thank you!
PC: It seems to be informed by so much life experience. Do you think you needed to be at this point in life, now, to do it full justice? Were you not be able to perform it until now?
AHC: Well, I have to tell you: it’s not that I wouldn’t be able to perform it, I just didn’t have the audacity to do it! For a long time I thought Joni Mitchell did the definitive versions of her songs.
PC: Understandably. But, you bring something new to it.
AHC: It wasn’t until recent years - and when I took on “Carey” on my album AT LAST - from my favorite album BLUE - that I thought, “You know, I can find my own voice in these songs. I don’t have to be intimidated by Joni Mitchell doing the definitive version. These are great songs. Why can’t I treat them with the same care and imagination that I give the songs of the Great American Songbook?” So, when I finally had the courage to just say, “I love this song and I need to sing it,” then, I do think it was great that I had waited this long in my life to have so much to bring to the song. I mean, when I think about the songs that I sang when I was in my early twenties, they were the great classic torch songs - I felt like I knew what I was singing about, but you certainly know a lot more about what you are singing about when you have more life experience.
PC: Do you have a completely different interpretation of a song you sing now as opposed to when you first began doing it?
AHC: Yeah - a song like “My Funny Valentine”: I always thought it was a beautiful song when I was a kid; and, I used to sing it at the piano when I was a teenager - just because I thought it was a classic - but, then, when I learned the story about Lorenz Hart when he sat down to write the lyrics - he was this closeted homosexual that had no hope of finding his great love, so he just this mirror in front of himself and wrote down the words that he wished someone would sing to him…
PC: How heartbreaking.
AHC: When I learned that story, it changed the song completely. And, now, when I sing it and I tell that story, people hear that song that has almost been turned into a cliché and they hear it for the fist time. That’s what makes my job exciting - to give people that kind of experience where, suddenly, you think you know something so well and suddenly you hear it brand new as if you’ve never heard it before.
PC: I never knew that story with all of that detail. How illuminating.
AHC: Yeah, so now next time you hear the song you’ll know the story! I recorded it myself on my album AFTER HOURS.
PC: I love that album. Your version is sublime.
AHC: Oh, thank you!
PC: You and your sister really do have a truly amazing collective catalog, but first I wanted to ask you about the Cole Porter composition you created from his music.
AHC: That was a huge honor. It was one thing to write lyrics to one of his melodies, but another thing to have it published by the estate.
AHC: I think it’s an interesting thing to do as a songwriter - I also found a lyric from the Noel Coward estate and did that. You know, if there are any treasures that haven’t been completed, it is a wonderful artistic challenge to try to bring life to a beautiful piece of music or a lyric that could bring a lot of beauty to the world. I found a gorgeous Robert Frost poem that I was extremely moved by, and, so, I set it to music…
PC: What happened with it?
AHC: Well, the good news is that, now, even though the Robert Frost estate said, “No, we don’t want to have any music set to his poems,” now it’s public domain and so, finally, I can share it with everybody. It’s one of my favorite things that I’ve written.
PC: I’m so glad it worked out! What do you think of public domain - especially since you have something out there that is known by virtually everybody on the planet like THE NANNY theme?
AHC: Oh, I’m so grateful! I’ve written hundreds of songs, so it’s great when one of your songs has the chance to go around the world like some of mine have. One of my favorite memories was singing “The Nanny” live - making my Berlin debut at the famous Philharmonie, where Ella Fitzgerald did one of her greatest albums, LIVE AT THE PHILHARMONIE.
PC: Of course. Classic.
AHC: I asked about it that day when I was rehearsing. I said, “Is THE NANNY played in Berlin?” And, they said, “Oh, yes!” And I said, “Should I sing it?” And, they said, “You should sing it. I’ll bet they would enjoy it.” So, I sang that song that night and a thousand German people were singing along with German accents!
PC: How fabulous!
AHC: Yeah! They were completely obsessed with the show! It just made me feel so happy to know that, here I am in this city I have never performed in before and I have been singing to them already and they have connected with my music already.
PC: Music brings everyone together, even now.
AHC: Any time you can touch people or amuse people or delight people or inspire people on a global level - it’s a huge thrill. To be able to make money from it, as well, is an additional thrill. [Laughs.]
PC: How many people get the “Their father finds her beguiling” line wrong?
AHC: [Big Laugh.] A lot of times people come up to me and I’ll say, “Sing it to me! I wanna hear how you hear it!” And, they don’t always get those words!
PC: I bet not!
AHC: I’ll never forget when Fran Drescher said, [Fran Drescher Voice.] “You have to tell the story of me getting the nanny job in 42 seconds.”
PC: Great impression!
AHC: I said, “That’s a lot of facts to get across in 42 seconds - let alone in a charming, memorable way.” So, we had to sing the song very quickly. As you know, my sister, Liz, did backup vocals.
PC: Of course. Great harmonies.
AHC: Yeah, but it’s perfectly OK that sometimes people don’t know what all the lines are! [Laughs.]
PC: Didn’t you compose additional songs for the Christmas animated episode?
AHC: I don’t remember writing any Christmas songs specifically, but I do remember singing “The Way We Were” on the last NANNY episode.
PC: Yes! Of course. Marvin Hamlisch when he did this column told me Barbra Streisand has the greatest voice and Liza Minnelli is the greatest live performer - do you agree?
AHC: [Pause.] It would be hard for me to make an absolute remark like that - though he does share my tastes, in general! I’m a Gemini, so there’s just too many people I’d want to celebrate.
PC: How judicious!
AHC: [Laughs.] Barbra Streisand does have one of the most extraordinary instruments, maybe, ever. And, Liza Minnelli: I saw her last show on Broadway and I think I gave her nine standing ovations during the show [Laughs.] - and, I was not alone. She is a phenomenal, phenomenal performing artist who is best seen live - even though she has made some wonderful recordings, too. You know, some people can do it all - and, I always say, “You don’t know a singer until you see them live,” and Liza is certainly one of those people, for me. But, Marvin and I definitely have similar sensibilities.
PC: I loved your PBS SINGER SPOTLIGHT with Liza.
AHC: Oh, I’m so glad you caught that!
PC: The Christine Ebersole one was fantastic, as well. Will there be more in the future?
AHC: Well, I was just with my sister in Chicago and we did our dad’s old show and I talked to the producer there, who I co-produced the Christine Ebersole pilot with, and, what we are thinking about now - since we raised a certain amount of money for the TV series and then the economy tanked - what we are thinking about now is taking that money and starting an internationally syndicated radio series. We want to get the show idea out there and the artists out there and the interviews out there - and, once it catches on, I think it will be easier to raise money for the TV series.
PC: It may be the right time for that after all with GLEE and all of the heightened theatre awareness we have these days.
AHC: It is something I feel really passionately about. I mean, it’s wonderful that with GLEE people are getting exposed to many different kinds of singers, but, AMERICAN IDOL in some ways engaged a lot of people in the art of singing, but I think it also missed a lot of opportunities in terms of really celebrating and teaching people what great singing is. So, that’s what I want this show to be and part of my hope: the songs, the singers and what makes them great and how can we keep up the great American legacy of this type of work?
PC: Simon Cowell told me when he did this column that sometimes people put personality over the point of the song and that is deadly and it seems that you are saying something similar.
AHC: Yeah, I think that one of the things that disturbs me about our time is that people are obsessed with being famous. They are more interested in being famous than being good.
PC: You can say that again.
AHC: The idea of paying dues or learning a craft is not as celebrated as I believe it should be. So, we have a whole generation of mini-celebrities - everybody has a website! [Laughs.] There are too many people who are famous for anybody to really be famous. I mean, superstars can’t do anywhere near the record sales they used to do because everyone is recording albums and the record industry is becoming so awash in…
AHC: In some ways it’s great that so many people are expressing themselves and putting their music out there, but, I think people are missing out on the great experience of: learning your craft and learning what it takes to be an artist; learning how to inhabit a song and put your full imagination into it and arrange it in a way that honors the song but also expresses who you are; and, finding out who you are though music and sharing it in a way that comes from your heart to the heart of your audience in an honest, exciting, surprising, personal way - this is the joy of being a singer! And, people who don’t understand how much more there is to the adventure of singing, I hope, eventually, they will find out - because it just makes life that much more fun!
PC: The breadth of knowledge that you and Liz display in your seemingly spontaneous riffs and harmonies is thrilling - I am thinking especially of your new recording of “The Way We Were” on BOOM! Do you credit that to your musicianship?
AHC: Well, Liz and I grew up with an extremely musical mother. She just sang torch songs at the piano - we’d come home from school and she would be throwing her head back singing “The Man I Love”, you know? [Laughs.]
PC: What an image!
AHC: That was just life that that happened! I mean, we grew up absorbing her passion and emotional honesty through songs and learned a lot from voice lessons and hearing her and working with her. So, having that as a backdrop to our childhood and a father who loved music, as well, and had us really think about things on a level that maybe kids don’t always get engaged in at that age - that certainly made us learn more quickly. And, I think we were both given God-given talented - so, that helps, too.
PC: Without question.
AHC: I mean, I have been harmonizing since I was a baby.
AHC: Yeah. It’s just natural to me. But, then, once you have been given a gift, the more you know about it the more fun you can have.
AHC: I feel like the voice is a symphony orchestra - it’s not just one sound. There are many sounds to express many states of emotion and states of being. So, I am glad I had a classical background - I had thought about being an opera singer for a while - and, I loved jazz. It was very confusing growing up with so much great music of different styles and genres! So, I am glad to have had a chance to come through it all and I think I have a sound that is distinctly me.
PC: You definitely do.
AHC: I think my style crosses a few genres but still has its own style, you know? I mean, to be able to sing with my sister and celebrate this music that we have grown up with? We have grown so much closer since we have started performing together. I think at first we were a little concerned - you know, “Will we get compared? How will that be?”
PC: And, understandably so.
AHC: The most important thing was how much we loved singing together. Then, we became much closer as a result of taking these great songs on the road and finding out where we meet in them with our distinct styles.
PC: SIBLING RIVALRY was recorded live, so is this now the sequel to that, in a way, with the live album for BOOM!?
AHC: Yeah! There is just nothing like a live album!
PC: I completely agree.
AHC: There is just something that happens when you get in front of an audience - and, no matter how hard you try in the studio to put your all into it, there is just an electric relationship that you have with an audience. And, this particular show - since it was so autobiographical and there is a lot of funny patter - we just thought it really would be a much better experience for people to have this be a live album. We talked about it at length because there are certain benefits to a studio album because of the perfection of it.
PC: Indeed. That’s the reason to do it that way, in the studio: perfection. Attainable perfection.
AHC: But, you know, sometimes it can get over-thought and over-produced and over-perfected and you miss the emotion of it and that’s really what we wanted: we wanted people to feel the raw emotion. Those nights at Birdland when we recorded the album were so electrifying - just like Rainbows & Stars [recording SIBLING RIVALRY]. It was a big love-fest and we are so, so happy that the CD is now out.
PC: I have to tell you that I particularly love the live version of “That The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be” to compliment the studio version from Liz’s most recent album, PASSAGE OF TIME.
AHC: Right. Right. It actually would be kind of interesting to hear them back to back and do that now, I think.
PC: I just did that, actually, before we spoke today!
AHC: [Laughs.] Well, then, how do you compare them?
PC: The studio version is a little more languid and ruminative, so I slightly prefer that at this point, but the live version is more dramatic and palpably moving, I think. They both have their benefits, to say the very least!
AHC: That’s funny, because, you know, sometimes when you get to know a recording, sometimes when you hear a different recording of the same arrangement, you feel sort of betrayed! [Laughs.]
AHC: It’s like, “Why did they do that?” [Laughs.] I remember seeing Van Cliburn play Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto - which I memorized when I was sixteen - and, he didn’t it play it the same way live!
PC: Oh, no!
AHC: I just felt like, “Why are you doing it like this?” But, he actually forgot a whole passage and screwed it all up!
PC: That’s a great story. Do you have a particularly affection for Carly Simon in general? You do that song so well.
AHC: I’ll tell you about Carly: when we performed it the first time in public - “That’s The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be” - Carly’s sister came to the show and she called up Carly that night and said, “Oh, you have to hear the Callaway Sisters’ version of ‘That’s The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be’ - it’s so incredibly beautiful!” So, she called my publicist and he sent her a copy through me and I put my phone number on the demo and, then, Carly Simon called my cell phone!
PC: No way! What happened when you spoke to her?
AHC: Oh, we spoke on the phone for like a half-hour! She was sitting at her piano and we were singing and she was telling me stories and I just couldn’t believe how down to earth she was and how sweet and generous she was. She even sent me an album and had signed it for me. She is such a lovely person - aside from being an amazing artist.
PC: I can already hear you doing a medley of her songs - possibly with Liz…
AHC: Well, actually, there’s a fantastic show called GIRLS LIKE US based on this fantastic book that this woman wrote about Carly Simon, Carol King and Joni Mitchell and we did a whole show of it at Merkin Hall and did a bunch of great Carly Simon songs. But, yes, we would love to do more songs together at some point. And, she’s written a lot of stuff about growing up and sisters, too, so there will certainly be more Callaway Carly Simon recordings in the future!
PC: From Carly Simon to Stephen Sondheim: what do you think of his work?
AHC: What do I think of Sondheim? I am so in awe of his talent and extreme intelligence. He is one of the most original composers of the twentieth century with such a breadth of work - to write the quality of music and lyrics that he has written and to make so many breakthroughs in musical theatre? I just hope he writes to the very last day of his life and continues pouring out what he feels.
PC: Cheers to that.
AHC: You know, the only thing that concerns me about Sondheim is that he is so great that a lot of composers younger than him aspire to be Sondheim and they don’t understand that what they should be aspiring to be is themselves.
PC: I could not agree more.
AHC: There is only one Stephen Sondheim - and, as much as he might inspire people, we only need on Stephen Sondheim. We need other people to be who they are. I had a very interesting experience: I created an award called the Songwriter Fellowship Award after I got my first platinum record. I wanted to pay it forward because of Amanda McBroom, who had helped me with my Streisand contact. So, we were at the awards luncheon with our ASCAP friend Michael Kirker and John Bucchino was there as the recipient of my first Fellowship Award and he was giving an award to two wonderful songwriters. At that luncheon, we were talking about Sondheim - Stephen Schwartz was there, too - and we were talking about how many songwriters try to be second-hand Sondheims.
PC: Too many. Speaking of Bucchino, your “A Restaurant By The Sea” is my favorite song on GRATEFUL. I think that’s your best vocal recording ever.
AHC: Oh, isn’t that an amazing song? When I recorded that song with John, I really needed to sing it - I was going through a very hard time emotionally. It was just the perfect song for me to sing at that moment. And, Adam Guettel was in the studio when I was recording it, too.
PC: That’s an incredibly moving and powerful song.
AHC: Yeah. Yeah. John is a genius and I am so glad that I got to record that song.
PC: That whole album is a masterpiece.
AHC: I agree.
PC: Since the new album and the live show with Liz is named BOOM!, I have to ask: have you seen the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton movie based on THE MILK TRAIN DOESN’T STOP HERE ANYMORE by Tennessee Williams of the same name?
AHC: No! Actually, the reason I came up with the name BOOM! and suggested it for us is because of baby boomers. I’d love to see that film, though.
PC: It’s so bizarre!
AHC: I love Elizabeth Taylor. I hope I can get it on Apple TV!
PC: It’s very hard to track down, but worth a look, for sure! If only for the costumes…
AHC: You know, when we do BOOM!, we sort of secretly wish we that we could wear incredibly outrageous costumes, but we really want the show to be about the music - so, it was one of those things where we made a decision not to go over-the-top with the costuming. But, we do encourage our audience members to dress up for the show - and, a lot times, people will bring out their bell-bottoms and their tie-dyed t-shirts and their love beads and that’s all very festive and fun.
PC: I love the story you and Liz tell about the day you got REVOLVER and love beads and what a formative day that was for you both.
AHC: Yes! Yes. I can’t believe, looking back at our childhood, that we talk about it all these years later in our lives. When I look at Liz, I totally remember that day perfectly - so, it’s funny to actually put it in a show and share it with people we don’t know. [Laughs.]
PC: Without a doubt! It must be sort of strange.
AHC: The people in the audience did the same thing in their own way, though, so we really relate.
PC: And my generation has heard all about it from their parents, as well. What about the here/ear joke? So funny.
AHC: Well, I stole that from Kenny Rankin! We did a radio show once and he told me that joke and I thought it was one of the funniest jokes I’ve ever heard.
PC: It is hilarious.
AHC: When we were putting this show together, I thought, “I have to tell that joke!” And, it always gets a huge laugh - especially in big cities.
PC: As it should! Lynne Taylor-Corbett recently did this column and spoke so favorably about directing you in SWING! on Broadway.
AHC: Oh, yeah. I had a great time working with her on SWING! It was really wonderful to work with her and do that show.
PC: Linda Eder told me that swing music is in your bones or you can’t really do it one-hundred percent - do you agree? You are one of the only truly great swing singers of our time.
AHC: [Pause.] You know, I don’t ever like to say that - even though I do believe it to a certain extent. I always go back to the Shakespeare quote, “Some men are born great, some men achieve greatness, and, some have greatness thrust upon them.”
PC: Perfectly put.
AHC: I think that most of the great jazz singers were born with the ability - it’s just that sort of rhythmic freedom and sensibility that allows them to swing. But, I think there are some people who can swing, but they are inhibited - so, there are ways of getting people un-inhibited and to unlock their natural abilities. And, then, some people just are so brilliant that things that aren’t natural to them but they learn how to do on instinct. And, so, there are a lot of different ways at arriving at the same place, I think.
PC: How do you think your penchant for swing developed?
AHC: Well, I grew up with Ella Fitzgerald and my dad scat singing around the house. It just was a natural thing for me. So, I didn’t really think about it - it was just who I was. There are so many other aspects to who I am, that it is sort of interesting thing to incorporate all of this musical sensibility and influence in one body.
PC: Schizophrenic to an extent, I bet. Tell me about the live show on Saturday at Pace. What can audiences expect - will it be the whole album? Any other songs? Some surprises?
AHC: Well, there are certainly certain songs that didn’t make the album because it is actually a longer show than it is an album.
PC: I noticed the album was exactly eighty minutes - the limit - so I’m glad we got all that we could get on one disc!
AHC: Yeah, we had to cut a few things, though! There will be a few surprises and additional songs and additional patter at the Pace show. And, it’s always so great to sing that show in New York City. We had an electrifying first show at Town Hall last year and we’re so excited to be able to bring it back again since we’ve recorded the CD - and, a lot of people still haven’t had a chance to hear it in New York.
PC: It’s supposed to be a really cool venue, I’ve heard.
AHC: Yeah, we happen to really love that space - it’s so great that they are turning it to a performance space now! One of my favorite shows of all time is INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO and that’s the stage where we are going to be performing on Saturday!
PC: How great is that?
AHC: We are so lucky to be able to be a part of that place where all those amazing people have performed. I can only just imagine all the energy in that hall.
PC: What other concerts do you have coming up for the rest of the year? Will you be doing more BOOM! shows with Liz?
AHC: Well, before the BOOM! concert on Saturday I am going to be going to Toronto to do a jazz program. Liz and I are doing something very exciting soon, though: in mid-November we are going to Indianapolis and we are going to be co-hosting YULETIDE, which is like this big Broadway-style show. It is a fantastic Christmas extravaganza with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and a cast of about fifty singers, dancers and actors.
PC: That sounds delightful.
AHC: Yeah, it is. I did this show four years ago and it was just an incredible experience. So, Liz and I are encouraging people from all over the country to fly in and see the show because it is going to just be over-the-top fabulous.
PC: One of my favorite Christmas albums is the recent Barbra Streisand CHRISTMAS MEM’RIES - you and Sondheim both contributed new songs to that and they are both so wonderful.
AHC: Aww! Yes, I love writing specialty material for her. Although, isn’t it interesting and ironic that some of the best Christmas songs are written by Jewish people and some of the best Christmas albums are by Jewish people? [Laughs.]
PC: So true. So true.
AHC: Streisand’s Christmas albums are just great classics and I was just thrilled to have a song on her Christmas album - especially since it was a song that I sang to my sister’s son when he was too excited about Santa Claus coming. So, I actually wrote the song to sing to him so he could fi
nally relax and go to sleep on Christmas Eve.
PC: What a beautiful story!
AHC: He is now a junior in college!
PC: How time flies! What are you doing before the Christmas show?
AHC: Well, I am going to Chicago and receiving an award and then doing a master class there. Then, I am doing the cabaret convention on the 21st and Liz is doing it on the 20th.
PC: When will the Streisand catalogue show unofficially premiere? Will you test it out first?
AHC: I think it will probably premiere in 2012. I don’t think I will do anything this year with it. But, I will be premiering the symphony show on May 15 and 16, 2012.
PC: How do you describe the show yourself beyond a revue?
AHC: It’s going to be a very exciting and powerful celebration of a remarkable artist who inspired me - and, I will be telling stories of what it was like working with her and writing songs for her and also the way that she influenced me and a generation of music lovers in a profound and lasting way.
PC: I cannot wait! I also have to mention I loved you in THE GOOD SHEPHERD and I would love to hear you do some soundtrack work in the future.
AHC: Oh, thank you. I have wanted to do that for a long time, but it is a very technical challenge to score a film. But, I am sure if I found the right person to do it with me, I would love to do it. I would also love to write a Broadway musical and I have a lot of ideas about that. There are so many things that I want to do, I hope I live long enough to do all of them! [Laughs.]
PC: So do we all! I can’t wait to see what’s next from you. BOOM! is a landmark and truly one of the most entertaining albums of the year. It’s even better than SIBLING RIVALRY somehow - no small feat! How do you define collaboration in terms of this overall experience creating and recording BOOM!?
AHC: You know, we both have amazing respect for each other and a wonderful relationship with our musical director, Alex, who leads the trio. Liz’s husband, Dan Foster, is a fantastic director and we all discussed what we wanted the show to be and what our goals were and what we wanted the audience to feel. Then, we just sang through hundreds of songs for the six months we worked on the show. We would put out our iPhone Voice Memos and record every single rehearsal and we all went through that and got it down to a certain number, so, eventually, this very natural evolution emerged. The process was very, very collaborative. It was a lot of work, but we put a very high standard on giving the audience just the right amount of fun and the right amount of intensity. We are so happy that audiences seem to relate so much to it and it brings so much joy to them.
PC: Collaboration is evolution! A very interesting theory.
AHC: Yeah. Yeah.
PC: Thank you so much for this, today, Ann. You are phenomenal and you never cease to amaze me.
AHC: You are so sweet, Pat. Thank you for such in-depth questions and knowing your material so well. Bye bye.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro