Amanda McBroom and Ann Hampton Callaway: Divalicious – Grand

Amanda McBroom and Ann Hampton Callaway, arguably two of the most multi-talented artists in the business, lit up jam packed 54Below tonight with collaboration exuding skill, brio and mutual admiration. Aided and abetted by equally hyphenated Michele Brourman (on this occasion MD/piano/vocals) and first rate bassist, Ritt Henn, the women perform a variety of old favorites and songs so new, the polish is still wet. It’s “an evening of standards, Annderds, and Amanderds.”  (Callaway)

Callaway’s “All the Things You Are” (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II) enters longline, then gently swings. Thoroughbred scat “everybody sing along!” strolls hand in hand with bass. Notes seamlessly glide up, slide down and coast. Asked by Barbra Streisand to add lyrics to Rolph Loveland’s “I’ve Dreamed of You,  Callaway created a universal love song. Both hands cradle the microphone. She looks heavenward as if in graritude. It’s creamy.  “I dedicate this to the love of my life who’s here tonight.”

Ann Hampton Callaway

“And now for something completely different,” McBroom says assuming center stage. “This is for the men of New York,” introduces “Eggs” (Michele Brourman/Amanda McBroom): I’m not the kind who’s fast with a line/I usually take things slow/Forgive me dear if I’m presuming here/But there’s something I need to know/How do you like your eggs?…” Seducing those in front as she sashays across the stage, the vocalist leans out with perfect, tart delivery and an implicit wink. Her favorite storysong “Wheels”(her own) rolls in on Brourman’s breezy, light touch piano. McBroom shares. We imagine a giddy child on her bike, arms extended wide, careening down a hill in pure flight. The performer’s eyebrows rise. Her song accordions through a lifetime. As an elderly woman wistfully remembering, she displays a tremor.

Amanda McBroom

Acknowledging female performers who came before, the ladies praise Dorothy Fields. McBroom tells/ enacts a marvelous story showcasing Fields’ compassion and generosity. The two met in passing at the start of McBroom’s musical theater career. I won’t spoil it. A medley of the veteran’s fine work follows. Buoyant duet of “Sunny Side of the Street (music -Jimmy McHugh) and Brourman’s “Pick Yourself Up” (music -Jerome Kern) are both jaunty. “Oh my God, she’s gonna scat!” McBroom moans at the start of one of Callaway’s musical romps. (She adds her own respectable effort.)The two harmonize with bonhomie and move with easy grace. ”The Way You Look Tonight” (music – Jerome Kern) becomes dancy as McBroom joins Callaway. Each dreams her own dream. Callaway holds the microphone to her breast; McBroom’s flat palm rests on hers.

Ann Hampton Callaway, Amanda McBroom

“Another great trailblazer was Peggy Lee,” Callaway notes offering a song popularized by the icon. Octaves descend with “Black Coffee” (Sunny Burke/Paul Francis Webster) for “the single, bitter people here tonight.” Ritt Henn dexterously picks and slaps creating rhythmic thrum. Callaway squeezes out blu-uu-uu-ee-sss in five syllables. Bourman’s fingers land hard and clear. (Callaway’s newest CD is Fever, A Peggy Lee Celebration. )

McBroom’s “Information Please” (Ann Hampton Callaway/Amanda McBroom) is deeply poignant. The feel is tantamount to someone unexpectedly putting a sweater around your shoulders just when you need it. Music and lyrics braid. Brourman’s rendition of “You’re Only Old Once” (Michele Brourman/Amanda McBroom) has laugh out loud lines. Slightly sandpaper vocal adds character to deft satire.

The duo’s first single (out May 12) is “Almost” (co-written) whose lyric languished in a drawer five years. Strolling piano and fine grained bass usher in delicate timbre: We were almost careful/We were almost wise/I was almost perfect/In your eyes… Again, the women retreat, each into her own memory, extending last lyrics, savoring.

Ritt Henn, Ann Hampton Callaway, Amanda McBroom, Michele Brourman

Callaway’s exalted, a capella “Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen/Yip Harburg) and McBroom’s wrenching “Carousel” (Jacques Brel/Eric Blau) arrive familiarly, both declaratory and mesmerizing. These might be at long last retired, though mature, emotionally translucent performance twice stops the show. Tonight’s finale is McBroom’s rapturous “The Rose.” As music swells, she and Callaway take one another’s hands. Aftershock is palpable.

An outstanding evening by way of accomplished artists, distinctly different yet showcasing kinship and ripe hearts. (Hopefully, eventually recorded.)

Photos by Maryann Lopinto

Amanda McBroom and Ann Hampton Callaway: Divalicious
MD/Piano – Michele Brourman
Bass – Ritt Henn

54Below 
254 West 54th Street

About Alix Cohen (1787 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.