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Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER! THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below

More than two years in the making, Ann Hampton Callaway's FEVER! is hot, hot, hot.

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below

A truly special artist deserves to be honored by a truly special artist. An original should pay tribute to an original. A woman of substance belongs with a woman of substance. And, this week at 54 Below, two women of substance, two originals, two truly special artists are in the spotlight.

Two years ago Peggy Lee would have been one hundred years old. The music world and the world of fans who have appreciated the contributions to society made by Legendary Lee all celebrated the occasion... but only in their hearts and in their homes. The Peggy Lee Centenary happened during the global health crisis, when the clubs were closed and live entertainment was not a possibility, and the proposed Ann Hampton Callaway Peggy Lee celebration was scrubbed from the calendar of Broadway's Living Room. Two years later, Ann Hampton Callaway was still waiting in the wings, ready to show off her idol in a program of fourteen new treatments of fifteen Peggy Lee classics (with encores, maybe a little more than fourteen, #bighint), and this is the week that lucky fans have been waiting for. Fans of Peggy, fans of Ann, and fans of The Great American Songbook. And maybe it's the two years away from live performing and the longing that it brings, but Ann Hampton Callaway has never sounded better, she's never looked better, she's never been better.

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below FEVER! THE Peggy Lee CENTURY is, ostensibly, a Peggy Lee tribute show, but there are so many layers to what is happening at 54 Below that the seventy-five minute presentation goes much deeper than one might, generally, expect. With this new show, AHC isn't just honoring Peggy Lee, she is honoring herself, she is honoring women, she is honoring women artists, she is honoring strength and perseverance, she is honoring the songs that made Peggy famous, and she is honoring the music that Lee gave the world. Anybody could stand on a stage and sing "Fever" or "He's A Tramp" or "Is That All There Is?" (in fact, many do), and anybody could walk up to a mic and recite Wikipedia facts about Norma Delores Egstrom from North Dakota. That isn't what Ann Hampton Callaway is doing in her show, though. AHC is singing those songs, and she is sharing those stories, but everything that Ann presents to the audience in this show comes from a place within herself, and in that process, Fever! becomes about how her life has been changed by the presence on this planet of Peggy Lee. What better way to honor an artist, a trailblazer, an idol than to showcase how their life and work changed your own?

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below Ann Hampton Callaway is a great musician, a renowned songwriter, an iconic singer, and a role model for women who want to live and create on their own terms, in their own way. The look in her eyes, the love in her voice when she (seemingly extemporaneously) expounds on the achievements of Peggy Lee tell the story of a woman talking about a loved one, a dear friend, a family member. Maybe a mother, maybe a grandmother, maybe a mentor, but the person about whom Ann is talking is more than just a famous singer-songwriter whose songs she likes. There is a relationship here, and, as such, there is reverence, a sense of pride, and a sense of protection, not just for Lee but for the music, which AHC has, both, preserved, and reimagined. No mere copycat of Peggy Lee's style and performances is at the microphone today; this is Ann Hampton Callaway and she knows no other way than the Ann Hampton Callaway way. She and Musical Director Ted Rosenthal (whose piano skills are, frankly, insane) have worked, tirelessly, to offer treatments of "I Love Being Here With You" and "It's a Good Day" and "Why Don't You Do Right?" that pay homage to Lee but that honor Ann's own artistic aesthetic. The Fever! team honors the original by allowing AHC to be her own original, and, in doing so, they shine a light on Lee's insistence on being her own woman. Only the most iconic of Lee's recordings remain (mostly) unaltered, like the title song, "Fever," which the band plays absolutely straight, while Ann layers in only occasional new stylings. One has to know when it's safe to stray from the path, and when to stay close to that which the audience finds familiar, and plans on hearing in the way to which they are accustomed. Every single moment of the show has been meticulously mapped out, for the benefit of the audience's enjoyment.

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below That doesn't mean the show is rote, though. Oh,no. No, no. That is not possible in an Ann Hampton Callaway show. Even with the clear mission of praising Peggy's accomplishments and making her music, there is no sense, whatsoever, that Ann is stuck inside of the structure of her script. There is structure. There is also adventure. Playful, whimsical, hilarious, whip-smart, and aware of everything happening around her, Ann Hampton Callaway is in touch with her audience at all times. Even through the blazing bright beauty of KJ's concert lighting, AHC could spot friends in the crowd, flirt with the patrons, clock a birthday celebration in progress, and hear an empathetic "Awww" from behind a black mask, all of which she responds to. She is, in fact, in the constant act of conversation - with the patrons, with the band, with Miss Peggy Lee, and with her own inspired artistry. It is truly an awesome sight, and (to be clear) awesome is not a word this writer uses on any kind of regular basis - but Ann Hampton Callaway does inspire awe, so, for this moment, awesome is the only real word of choice. It isn't just the presence, the beauty, the brains, and the camaraderie that makes her that way, either, because (brass tack moment) this is a music show, and there must be quality music.

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below Ann Hampton Callaway is the very definition of quality music. It is a privilege to sit in a room and listen to Ann Hampton Callaway sing. The sounds that The Diva is able to make with her vocal instrument are so unfathomably luscious that it is, in fact, like listening to someone play a Stradivarius. It isn't just the act of listening to one of the most beautiful voices in the world make music - the technique is in the room. You can actually hear the bow moving over the strings. When Ann Hampton Callaway is singing it is like an immersive experience in which a person gets all the emotion from acting moments, all the appreciation of the technical prowess, and all of the thrills to be found in artistic musical interpretation. It's enough to make a person laugh, cry, gasp or sigh, particularly during a devastating "Black Coffee," a rollicking "Just One of Those Things," and a heartbreaking "The Folks Who Live On The Hill" - the evening highlights for this reporter.

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below Fever! The Peggy Lee Century isn't just a loving tribute to a legendary artist and groundbreaking woman, it isn't just a night of extraordinary musical achievement, and it isn't just a celebration two-years in the making. It's one of the most elegant, witty, and sexy club acts that audiences are going to find in town this week, and it's a show that people are going to want to catch - either in person or via the live stream on May 21st (which will include a visit from Holly Foster Wells, Miss Lee's own granddaughter and keeper of the Lee Legacy). And when audiences are finished watching Ann Hampton Callaway's hot new tribute show, they won't just have a greater appreciation of Norma Delores Egstrom and of Ann Hampton Callaway - they will have a greater understanding of what it takes to be an original, and how important it is to be absolutely who you are and do absolutely everything you can to rise to the occasion.

Ann Hampton Callaway has risen to the occasion.

The FEVER! Band is Ted Rosenthal on piano, Martin Wind on bass, and Tim Horner on drums.

Ann Hampton Callaway FEVER! THE Peggy Lee CENTURY plays Feintstein's on May 20 and 21 at 7 pm. For information and reservations visit the 54 Below website HERE.

The May 21 performance is available for live stream. For information and reservations click HERE.

Visit the Ann Hampton Callaway website HERE.

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below

Review: Ann Hampton Callaway Honors a Legend and More With FEVER!  THE PEGGY LEE CENTURY at 54 Below Photos by Stephen Mosher


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From This Author - Stephen Mosher