As someone who used to binge watch “The Nanny” on Nick at Nite all the time, I never thought I would be able to see the artist of its theme song live, and love it, but on Saturday Oct. 5, I did. Ann Hampton Callaway, a Tony Award nominee and the artist of that iconic theme song, performed her show, “Jazz Goes to the Movies” in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.
As expected for a jazz concert, the theatre was filled with Fairfield residents as opposed to students, but the performance wasn’t nearly as boring as students were probably expecting. Callaway brought her bright personality and four instrumentalists to back her up.
Callaway had a quiet yet bold presence on stage. She wore all black with sparkling details on the sleeve that dazzled in the lights. Callaway was genuinely funny when she spoke effortlessly, and she had the entire audience enraptured by her performance. She often had the audience participate by snapping or singing along, and even teased some unwilling participants in the front row. Her performance exuded energy and happiness, and the audience could clearly tell she loved what she was doing.
Callaway couldn’t have blown the Quick Center away without the instrumentalists. What was particularly impressive about the group was their ability to both be extremely prevalent in their solos but blend into the background when necessary too. Jimmy Greene played the saxophone flawlessly, delivering an impressive solo for almost every single song they performed. Ted Rosenthal was on the piano and his touch balanced between delicacy and strength. Double bassist Martin Wind delivered a steady and jaunty bassline, and even had some impressive solos in many songs. Tim Horner played the drums with such finesse I often found myself watching him perform. Together, they created music that was an incredible experience to listen to.
She played her album of the same name as the concert. It was a medley of jazz compositions for music from Old Hollywood films like “Casablanca” and “The Jazz Singer.” Some were more famous than others, but all were fantastic performances. In particular, her version of “Blue Skies” from the 1946 film of the same name was original and beautiful. It was one of the songs that had the entire theater singing along.
She also spontaneously sang “La Vie En Rose,” referencing Lady Gaga’s rendition of the song from the film, “A Star is Born” before she did so. It was one of her best performances of the night. Crystal clear and subtly powerful, Callaway’s voice turned the song into a masterpiece.
She talked often of how much she loves Old Hollywood movies because of their use of clever wording and wit. To prove her love of wit, Callaway spent much of the time with smooth wordplay and side quips. It pushed her performance to a whole new level. She even told the audience that she hopes there will be a “resurgence of wit” in the world.
Near the end of the concert, she had the audience participate in an improvised romantic song about Fairfield, Conn. She had the audience suggest the content of the song including the characters names, where they met and what they liked about each other. It’s something I’ve never seen in a concert, but it was both hilarious and impressive. Then she got herself into the right mindset for her improvisation, calling the Quick Center a “spiritual vortex” and taking to the piano. For something that was written in minutes and never rehearsed among the musicians, it was quite a feat. The entire theater marvelled at the talent and Callaway’s clever ad-libbed wordplay.