Anne Kerry Ford may have been trained as an actor and dancer, but she seems to have found her true calling as a cabaret singer.
Although she's appeared on Broadway, in films such as "Fearless" with Jeff Bridges and on television, including a stint on "Days of Our Lives," Ford said, "Cabaret is what I prefer to do . . . Everything I've done in my life informs this moment, and I find it more fulfilling than anything I've ever done."
Ford, a resident of Ojai for the past three years, debuted a collection of songs by lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II and composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim at a Los Angeles nightclub two months ago. "A lot of people from Ojai drove all the way to L.A. to see me there," Ford said in a recent interview. This weekend she'll be bringing the show home, to Ojai's Theater 150.
After attending a ballet academy in Washington, D.C., she was admitted, at 16, to the Juilliard School as an acting student.
"I just fell into acting," she said, "and I had a willingness to be out there with my emotions that (the Juilliard admissions staff) must have thought would serve me in a professional career."
Upon graduation, "I started working like crazy--I was a classically trained 20-year-old."
She made her Broadway debut as Daddy Warbucks' secretary, Grace, in "Annie." Another credit she's proud of is the 1989 production of "The Threepenny Opera," starring British pop singer Sting. ("He's a gentleman and funny, and I just adore him.") The musical also featured Georgia Brown, Maureen McGovern and Kim Criswell.
In 1984, Ford, then Anne Kerry, came to Los Angeles to appear in a play at the Olympic Arts Festival and met her husband-to-be, prominent blues and jazz-fusion guitarist Robben Ford, at a concert. She has been a Southern Californian ever since.
While appearing in the original production of "Harry Chapin, Lies and Legends," she met singer-songwriter Amanda McBroom ("The Rose"), a fellow cast member. McBroom, who now lives with her husband in Ojai where they are the Fords' neighbors, was doing her own cabaret act.
"It was sensational to see her take an audience on a (musical) journey, just herself and her musicians," Ford said, "and I thought it was something I'd like to try."
Some of the songs from earlier versions of Ford's cabaret act are on the "In the Nest of the Moon" album, produced by her husband and released on the couple's own Allyria label.
The current program is based on the personal and professional relationship between Hammerstein and Sondheim, who were a generation apart.
"Hammerstein was Sondheim's mentor, ever since Steve was about 12," said Ford, who has auditioned for Sondheim, so far unsuccessfully. "I was interested in how different they are, yet there was a very strong influence."
* Anne Kerry Ford performs at 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday at Theater 150, 918 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai. Tickets are $20. For reservations (strongly recommended) or information, call 525-1212.
Fillmore Murder Train: There's been an increasingly successful series of audience-participation murder mysteries on the Fillmore & Western Railroad, of which the latest is "The Halloween Night Train."
The mystery this time around is less important than the high jinks--several people drop dead, only to reappear as twisted versions of various famous characters, including Frankenstein's Monster (Ken Duncan), Dracula (Michael Roberts), Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" (Susan Wiltfang) and a mysterious angel (Diane Adelle).
It's up to the audience to figure out what's going on, and luck to you. But the food is unusually good, the actors carry on engagingly with the audience and everybody on Saturday night seemed to have a grand time.
* "The Halloween Night Train" begins at 6 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 25, meeting at 351 Santa Clara Ave., Fillmore. Ticket price of $68.50 includes the train ride, dinner with choice of entree, and show; a full cash bar is available. For reservations (mandatory) or information, call (800) 773-8724.