Ann-Thology Number Five

Greetings from American Airlines flight 117 to Los Angeles. We have just passed over Manhattan and I always like to imagine that the plane is sprinkling blessings to all below. I am on my way to sing at Founder's Hall at The Orange County Performing Arts Center. This is my first jazz trio concert since "Swing" has closed. I'm looking forward to singing choice standards and Ann-dards with a great trio led by Ted Rosenthal. And it will be fun to see my pals who are brave enough to live in a place where the word "like" is rarely used as a verb.

Tonight the Grammy's take place. I will be ordering room service and watching with fascination. "Swing" is up for a nomination, my pianist from my upcoming CD, Kenny Barron, is up for two nominations, and Freddy Cole, Nat's brilliantly talented younger brother who just recorded "For All We Know " with me is up for a Grammy. It's exciting when people you love and admire get that kind of recognition. And I am confident if any of my pals win, they will not write "Soy bomb" on their bare chest and confound the world.

Where do I begin, friends? I'll start with the end. The closing of my first Broadway show. Since I had worked on the creative process of "Swing" for two years and performed on Broadway for over a year, you can imagine how intense those last weeks were. Our cast and crew had bonded into a true family. So many audience members came up to us after each performance incredulous that the show was closing. Many said that it was the best thing they'd seen or the happiest two hours they'd remembered spending. Kids came up to us, wide eyed and excited, with their own dreams of becoming a performer ignited. (I loved seeing my young self in them.) And I particularly delighted in hearing cynical theater snobs wait after the show to exclaim how they had no idea that they would enjoy a musical revue so much. It just made me feel proud to be part of something that had brought joy and inspiration to so many people from all walks of life.

So, it was a misty eyed time in those last days. I found it particularly difficult to get through "I'll Be Seeing You" which so eloquently expressed both a dramatic scene and my feelings towards my cast members and the audiences each night. Finally, the last weekend arrived. Our crowds were amazing with tumultuous applause and instant standing ovations. It helped us to stay focused on our perfomances instead of our sadness. Saturday night, I brought in a half a case of Veuve Cliquot and we had a toast after the show. It felt good to celebrate our accomplishments. Then, Sunday, I woke up dreadfully ill from food poisoning. I called my stage manager to say I would do everything in my power to be ready to do the show but to have my understudy, Stacia, ready. Apparently, Everett, my co-star, woke up and had no voice and called up our stage manager also, saying that he didn't think he'd be able to do the show but he'd let her know for sure. Well, she was furious. She thought we were playing a mean practical joke on her. But we weren't. Miracle of miracles, Everett and I managed to show up to do the show, mind over matter. And for the first time in what seemed like months, our entire cast made it for the final performance.

I felt physically weak and vulnerable getting ready for the show. When I got my cue, I said a prayer, walked down the stairs from my newly bare dressing room, and gave everyone hugs including our prop man, Barney, who had supplied me with power hugs at the start of every show for over a year. (I have a peculiar glycemia- low hug sugar.) As I stood in the wings watching J.C. belt out the opening number, I felt so filled with gratitude for having had this extraordinary experience. I knew my mom, my sister and my nephew was out there, as well as my new neighbors, my manager, Miller and our producers, designers and director. What I didn't know was there was as much a love fest in the audience as there was on stage. When I stepped out into the lights of the St. James theater, suddenly every note felt like my last note, every song felt like my last song. And yet, there was a sense of grace supporting me, guiding me through each moment. And I could feel everyone giving their all. It couldn't have been going better.

At the end of Act One, it was finally time to sing "I'll Be Seeing You." My heart was brimming with love and as Carol and Scott danced their last pas de deux I sent those exquisite words out to them, to my character's love, to all the soldiers who had fought in WWII, to all their loves they'd said goodbye to, to all the artists who'd given us this music, to everyone who'd been a part of "Swing" and to everyone sitting out there in the darkness. When the song was over and I had managed somehow not to cry and Carol and Scott had spun perfection, the applause began. And it continued. And it went on some more. It must have been about two minutes of pure love from the audience. I will never forget it. An enchanted, perfect moment that happens once in a blue moon.

Well, the moon stayed blue for the rest of the show. And when the curtain fell after a thunderous standing ovation that wouldn't end, we all got in a big circle and just held each other. After a few minutes, since the audience was still standing and applauding, it occurred to our stage manager, Karen, to get the man who operates the curtain back in the theater to pull it up. And up, it finally went. The audience went crazy. It seemed time for someone to say something and since I'm so shy I gestured that I would be willing. So I stepped downstage and spoke from my heart some parting words of thanks to everyone. Then we brought up our great dance team, Ryan and Jenny, from the audience as well as Lynne TaylorCorbett, our director, Paul Kelly, our conceiver and our several producers. A tableau of a family all together that could not have felt more complete.

That night, our producers threw us a party at Jack Rose and we all had a ball. We ate, drank and danced up a storm. I wrote a closing night song and sang it at a keyboard while everyone sang along and Everett made up instant harmonies and played drums on anything that would make a sound. There were a few speeches and boy, were there a lot of hugs. I think I hugged every single person goodbye at least once. Mind you, I had so determined to hold it together, I had not yet cried. And I was ill. So, after an hour and a half of goodbyes, my manager poured me into a taxi and closed the door. That's when the tears began. The floodgates opened. And they stayed open till I paid the driver. When I got to my apartment and closed the door behind me I sobbed me some seriously primordial tears. My cat, Muffin, looked up at me with her big green eyes for about two hours as I completely surrendered to the emotions of saying goodbye. Her fur was wet from all the tears that fell on her but after I was grateful that I had allowed myself to feel whatever came and release it. It was perfect closure.

The next day, my eyes were life preservers but I woke up feeling wonderful. A new life was beginning. New freedom. New opportunities. Time to rest, to read, to write, to friends, to see theater, to do my spiritual questing again. Three weeks of anything I wanted to do. I stole away to Puerto Rico with my sister had had five blissful days of sun, beach and adventure. Then I came back to the bash of bashes, Mark Sendroff's 50th birthday party called "A Night of a Thousand Star Clients". I performed an improv in his honor in front of virtually every great singer in the business. What a show that was. When it was over, I had that awe struck feeling I get about having these people for peers. The fact is, I never quite get used to the idea that I am living my dream. It continues to amaze me, as if it's the seven-year-old Ann who's experiencing this, the girl who stood in front of the mirror with a hairbrush for a microphone and pretended to be Barbra Streisand or Ella Fitzgerald or the fifth Beatle.

Speaking of Ms. Streisand, I still haven't seen her TV special that aired on Valentine's Day but I was honored that she included my two songs "At the Same Time" and "I've Dreamed of You". I was in Florida at the time performing my new symphony act with my favorite maestro, Peter Nero and the Boca Pops. But I came back to calls from all over the country from friends who'd enjoyed the show. I have to say how kind Barbra has been to me. She graciously acknowledged me from the stage at Madison Square Garden saying needlessly kind things. She received me for over a half hour after her concert. She sent flowers to thank me for helping me with patter. She sent a fax on the opening night of "Swing". She sent an autographed photograph taken of us, and autographed sheet music. I mean, really, that is all quite lovely and not to be expected. But the greatest gift she gave me besides singing my songs took place on her closing concert. You'd think being a singer and watching the diva of the century sing to 30,000 cheering fans would make me wish I was Barbra Streisand. The gift she gave me was making me wish I was Ann Hampton Callaway.

Here's the story. We're all works in progress. We're born pure, brilliant, open, trusting, loving, completely perfect. Then we go into this vast, complex world. Those wonderful instincts in us get educated out of us. We spend the rest of our lives trying to get back what we've lost, what we've forgotten. We play hide and seek with who we really are. Well, I have recently intensified the search for the truest AHC. What an adventure. For we live in anxious times that ask us all to be one thing. Something you can label, categorize, put in a bin. I think I am actually a rainbow in a world that prefers that I'd be just blue or red. But that's okay. I really enjoy it, actually. And I am definitely not alone.

So, reemerging as a solo artist after doing a Broadway show is exciting. Because now I am a different person. I was in an eight year relationship. Now I am single. I used to live in the country. Now I live in the city. I used to have certain ideas about love and romance. Now I am being awakened to a whole new sensibility more informed by spirituality. I used to be respected but not so known. Now I am gaining recognition. So, that means that every word I write, every note I sing, every song I choose has to reflect the me I am today. I can't wait to wake up each day and discover who this person is and share it.

I think this is all reflected in my CD that we recorded this weekend. It's called "Signature" and is a collection of the signature songs of the great jazz singers like Ella, Bille, Sarah, Frank, Tony, Louis... I got to work with Kenny Barron, Ben Wolfe, Lewis Nash, Frank Wess, Rodney Jones and Freddy Cole. And Wynton Marsalis comes in to do solos as well as The New York Voices. It was an extraordinary experience and I look forward to every step of its completion and release.

Speaking of releases, I am happy to tell you that my sister, Liz Callaway, has just put out a fabulous CD called "And the Beat Goes On", her tribute to the songs of the sixties. I dare you not to play this CD over and over and re-memorize all the words. My favorite is her "Didn't We". It ruins my makeup everytime. Also, my co-star, Everett Bradley put out his debut CD and it is a run, don't walk experience. Brilliant original songs you will wish you'd written. And if you haven't yet gotten John Bucchino's CD "Grateful', treat yourself to his glorious soul. Several of my favorite singers sing his compositions and I was lucky to record his gem, "Restaurant By the Sea". Last of all, the audio book I recorded called "Too Dead To Swing" has come out where I play a band singer from the forties who gets involved with a murder mystery. I'll put a link on my website so you can find out more.

Well, friends, it's time to say goodbye. Thank you so much for spending this time with me. Till we meet again in some cozy jazz room or concert hall or the great cyber-stratosphere, blessings to you.

Now, when I count to three, get your diva hug. One, two, three... Ah. That was nice.


Ann . . .