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A highly regarded cabaret mainstay who made her Broadway debut in 1999 with "Swing!," statuesque brunette songstress Ann Hampton Callaway made the most of her three octave range without slipping into vocal theatrics or showiness. Sweetly husky-voiced, with an appreciation for standards that didn't deter her from performing original material, the talented jazz singer had a career marked equally by struggle and amazing good fortune. On her third day in New York, a 21-year-old Callaway landed her first job, making the most of her wedding singer background while in the audience at a piano bar. She stepped in and brought the crowd to its feet when the pianist on duty didn't know a request, the Dan Hill 1970s popular ballad and wedding standby "Sometimes When We Touch." Two years after this, the singer-songwriter-pianist recorded her debut album on Inner City Records, but was left in the lurch when the label folded before releasing the record. The performer stuck to it, and honed her craft in New York when in 1987 she met David Susskind. The famed producer seemed to hold the promise of a career jump-start, but tragically, he died suddenly not long after making this discovery.
Her debut finally did reach the masses in 1992, and the self-titled album featured the track "I Gaze Into Your Eyes," an unprecedented collaboration merging Callaway's melody with a newly discovered Cole Porter lyrics. Possessing a warmth and charm equal to her formidable talent, Callaway became a cabaret favorite, wowing audiences with her range and engaging them with her personality. While her success remained specialized and she hadn't become a household name, the singer was present in many an American home on a weekly basis for six seasons (1993-99) as the writer and performer of "The Nanny Named Fran," the memorable theme to the CBS sitcom "The Nanny." This wasn't Callaway's first entry into television, as she had also composed the theme to ABC's short-lived late-night series "Day's End" (1989). In 1995, Callaway joined with her sister, Broadway actress and singer Liz Callaway in the original musical "Sibling Revelry." Their Rainbow Room performance of this touching and funny show was released on CD the following year, and in 1998 they took the heartwarmer to London, opening the theater season at the famed Donmar Warehouse.
Through the years, Callaway's flawless performances had won her fans, with legends the likes of Tony Bennett and Liza Minnelli taking in several of her shows. Noted perfectionist Barbra Streisand not only performed Callaway's ballad "At the Same Time" on the successful 1997 album "Higher Ground," but when the diva married James Brolin in a most anticipated wedding, she performed for her new husband and select guests "I've Dreamed of You," with lyrics specially penned by Callaway for the occasion. Although the singer-songwriter has played extensively in nightclubs and has embarked on tours including a successful international jaunt in support of her album "For Ella With Love," in 1999 she conquered a new kind of stage: Broadway. She made her debut with a Tony-nominated turn in "Swing!," a jubilant song and dance look at the newly revived musical form. New to the acting and dancing end of stage work, Callaway proved a true professional, with note-perfect execution. Some of her own original songs and arrangements were featured in the show, which also called on her to do an entire three-act scene in scat. Lucky for Callaway and "Swing!," she had been taught the improvisational chatter at a young age by her father, CBS News correspondent and jazz enthusiast John Callaway. Her triumphant debut undoubtedly ensured Callaway a long and fruitful stage career that would match the success of her cabaret and recorded endeavors.
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