New York cabaret singer Ann Hampton Callaway dips into Streisand.

Arizona Daily Star file photo

Invisible Theatre launches its 2011 Sizzling Summer Sounds cabaret concert series this week with two events - "High Standards" with a cast of popular Tucson performers and "An Evening With Ann Hampton Callaway" featuring the critically acclaimed New York cabaret singer.

The series, which was on hiatus last summer, returns to the Arizona Inn, where it was in residence for three summers beginning in 2003. It's a venue that fits perfectly with the series' mission of providing a true cosmopolitan cabaret experience, says IT Managing Director Susan Claassen.

"We wanted to be able to showcase world-class talent that lives here and comes in in a setting where people really listen to the music," Claassen said. "I like to say it's a cosmopolitan experience on Tucson time: Have dinner, a cabaret show and hang out with the artists in the lounge and still be home by 10."

The series has been part of IT's offerings off and on for the past 21 years, starting in 1990 with a 10-year run at the Doubletree Hotel. After a couple-year hiatus, the series moved in 2003 to the Arizona Inn, where it settled in for three years. This is the first time it returns to the Arizona Inn since 2005, Claassen said.

Here's a quick primer on the opening concerts:

• High Standards: Features pianist Jeffrey Haskell and vocalists Jack Neubeck and Katherine Byrnes performing jazz, pop and Great American Songbook standards. Claassen, who created the show with the performers, said each of the trio comes from a different perspective of what defines a "standard."

Haskell's reference is jazz, while Neubeck's is Broadway. Byrnes, who is a generation removed from her co-stars, brings pop and contemporary jazz to the spotlight.

"They each bring something to it so that we get a little history of the music from Irving Berlin and Gershwin with the idea of how immigrants played into it and the music of the streets," she said. "You are going to get a music history lesson on what makes a standard a standard. They are timeless."

• Callaway: "She's so big she needs three names. She can't just be Ann Callaway. She has to be Ann Hampton Callaway," quipped Claassen.

It's all in good fun. Callaway has a long relationship with Invisible Theatre going back to the early days of the cabaret series. Claassen said Callaway was one of the first artists she approached about the Sizzling Summer Sounds series.

Callaway's response: "You are absolutely out of your mind. You think you are going to fill (a venue) in Tucson, Ariz., in July?" Claassen recalled.

Claassen responded with one word: "Yes."

Callaway, a multiplatinum-selling artist who lives in New York City, has performed in the series several times. Her shows mine jazz and pop standards, sprinkled with humor and intimate warmth, as if she were performing before an audience of old friends.

Callaway's show will draw heavily from her recent Etta James tribute album and her 2009 album of love songs, "At Last." She also might slip in a song or two from her soon-to-be-released CD with her sister, Tony-nominated actress Liz Callaway.

If you go

Sizzling Summer Sounds

• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.

• Performances: "High Standards" featuring Jeffrey Haskell, Jack Neubeck and Katherine Byrnes at 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; "An Evening With Ann Hampton Callaway" 8 p.m. Thursday, next Friday and June 25.

• Where: Arizona Inn, 2200 E. Elm St.

• Tickets: $35, $99 for three-event sampler by calling 882-9721. Discounts available.

• Et cetera: Sizzling Summer Sounds continues through mid-July.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642.