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Ann Hampton Callaway pays tribute to Barbra Streisand, one of her favorite People

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Tuesday night, Barbra Streisand officially becomes a diva’s diva.

That’s when jazz vocalist Ann Hampton Callaway, along with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, performs The Streisand Songbook at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.

“There's something intimidating about Barbra. She’s larger than life. Awe inspiring. Such a major force of energy,” says Callaway, who’s not exactly a shrinking violet. (Her website, AnnHamptonCallaway.com is titled American Diva.)

The two singers have known each other for years. Callaway wrote the words to I’ve Dreamed of You, a song Streisand sang at her 1998 wedding to James Brolin.

“The wedding song was something she asked me to write lyrics to the beautiful music by Rolf Lovland,” Callaway recalls.

Streisand, now 70, recorded I’ve Dreamed of You, along with two other songs by Callaway, 54: “At the Same Time, my anthem for world peace, and Christmas Lullaby on her second holiday album,” the younger singer says.

Last year, Callaway began singing The Streisand Songbook.

“I wanted to do something that would honor her extraordinary career,” Callaway says. “ It was daunting because she is a living legend. I wanted to approach it with an intelligent angle that would put more focus on the songwriters. She’s still around to sing her great songs and she’s still doing great things.”

Callaway says she puts a “fresh take” on the Streisand canon and never tries to sing like her idol.

“If I were a female impersonator, I’d do the same performance on all these songs,” she says.

Among the Streisand classics she performs: People, Don’t Rain on My Parade and a medley of On a Clear Day and Happy Days Are Here Again.

Callaway, a staple on the South Florida jazz and cabaret circuit, says to expect a different kind of performance at this show.

“This is a more theatrical event. The emphasis is on more theatrical music,” Callaway says. “Barbra has taught me the importance of acting the songs.”

Lockhart, the Pops conductor who’ll be in Miami with Callaway, says this type of show is particularly hard to pull off.

“It’s always easier to do tributes to people who are dead,” Lockhart says.

Callaway came up with the idea of saluting Streisand, he says.

“We thought about it and she’s a living icon,” Lockhart says. “She’s up there with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland. They have a greater relationship with the songs then the people who wrote them.”

Callaway says she’s booked with the show through 2014 and that she plans to record The Streisand Songbook, which is also a tribute to many of her Barbra’s favorite Broadway composers: Jule Styne, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman and Marvin Hamlisch.

So far, Streisand has not seen the show.

But when she does, Callaway wants to know before she arrives on stage.

“I think I’ll be slightly on edge. but on the other hand, this is the way I’ve said thank you,” Callaway says. “When people make a difference in your life, it’s nice to say thank you.”

IF YOU GO

Ann Hampton Callaway, Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra perform The Streisand Songbook 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Adrienne Arsht Center. Tickets $50 to $125; arshtcenter.org.

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