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Cabaret Review

Divas Stage a Powerful Mix of Boisterousness, Elegance

August 29, 2000|DARYL H. MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Responding to sustained applause toward the end of her joint performance with Amanda McBroom at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Sunday, Ann Hampton Callaway pumped her fist and shouted, "Diva power!"

That power was strong as these well-matched singer-songwriters--McBroom from Los Angeles and Callaway from New York--shared the outdoor stage. In joint numbers, their dusky mezzo-sopranos twined gorgeously, while in solo sets Callaway's jazz stylings and boisterous personality provided a distinct yet complementary contrast to McBroom's elegance and emotion.

For her set in the first half of the nearly 2 3/4-hour show, Callaway mixed standards with her own compositions, accompanying herself on piano and, between numbers, delivering a near-stand-up comedy routine on everything from the hillside's chirping crickets to Barbra Streisand, for whom she wrote lyrics to the wedding song "I've Dreamed of You."

Perhaps the most complete fusing of her talents came in a rendition of a Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer tune, from her current, Tony-nominated Broadway turn in "Swing!" Over honky-tonk piano, she sang with satin smoothness--slipping into a bluesy growl now and again--about that "two face," "worrisome thing" who'll leave you to sing the "Blues in the Night."

From Callaway's songs of yearning romance, the program turned to McBroom's eloquent perspectives on womanhood, from a tearful calling out in the night for mama, in her song "The Portrait," to the swept-away feeling of a guilty, later-in-life romance--which she introduced as what Gertrude might have replied to Hamlet--in "In His Hands." Her frequent composing partner, Michele Brourman, matched her mood for mood on piano.

At concert's close, the singers swapped tales of love that transforms yet torments because it goes unconsummated. McBroom poured her heart into "Best Friend," with Callaway listening in tearful silence before responding with "Where Does Love Go."

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