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Bernadette Peters

| June 7, 2017

Bernadette Peters
with Wolf Trap Orchestra

Filene Center, VA, June 3, 2017

Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Bernadette Peters

Though she’s a star of television, film, and concert halls, the evening’s overture, with its snippet of “Broadway Baby” (Stephen Sondheim), and the opener, “Let Me Entertain You” (Gypsy; Jule Styne/Sondheim), said it all. Not only are Bernadette Peters’ roots in the Great White Way, but she is a consummate performer and entertainer through and through. Peters possesses a canny show business instinct and impeccable timing, working the stage with full knowledge of what she has to offer. “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame” (South Pacific; Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II) also bespoke the Peters persona—kittenish, sexy, and femininely curvaceous (the form-fitting gown a true testament of the diva’s agelessness). The patter—just enough—gives a sense of personal connection to the audience as she sets up each number with charm and often with humor. She is also fearless, unafraid to play with a number, bending and stretching it to her will, applying just the right amount of theatrics to put it across, as borne out by “Mr. Snow” (Carousel; Rodger & Hammerstein), and “When You Wish Upon a Star” (Leigh Harline/Ned Washington).

Happily, Peters knows the power and value of dynamics. Her storytelling is artful, but never inauthentic. There’s no showy belting for its own sake. She sang through several numbers, such as “No One Is Alone” (Into the  Woods; Sondheim), and “It Might as Well Be Spring” (State Fair; Rodgers & Hammerstein), with no crescendo whatsoever, allowing the lyrics to speak for themselves to arrive at a stirring conclusion. Her penultimate number, “Being Alive” (Company; Sondheim), was the sole number in which she demonstrated the power of her voice. It may be that Peters is aware of the vocal limitations of age: two numbers from Follies (Sondheim)—“In Buddy’s Eyes” and “Losing My Mind”—did hint of vocal strain, yet an intensely dramatic “Johanna” (Sweeney Todd; Sondheim) followed by an equally intense “Send in the Clowns” (A Little Night Music; Sondheim) were delivered with strength and surety. What remains is that Peters knows how to use her voice. The Sondheim pairing of “With So Little to Be Sure Of” (Anyone Can Whistle) flowing into “Children Will Listen” (Into the Woods) typified her handling of the playlist with wisdom and control. 

Complementing the symphonic Wolf Trap Orchestra was Peters’ own rhythm section. Music Director Marvin Laird served as conductor and pianist. Kevin Axt provided bass, and Cubby O’Brien was on drums and percussion. These latter two players demonstrated their chops with the sole accompaniment of a fun version of “Fever” (Otis Blackwell as John Davenport/Eddie Cooley/Peggy Lee ) and on a very relaxed “Come On-a My House” (The Son; Ross Bagdasarian/William Saroyan).

Closing out the show, Peters revealed why she, like Wolf Trap National Park, might be considered a national treasure: her encore was a sincere pitch for Broadway Barks, the charity she founded with Mary Tyler Moore, and a sweet, heartfelt lullaby, “Kramer’s Song,” named after her beloved dog.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, DC/Maryland/Virginia, DC/Maryland/Virginia Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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