Slick. Slick. Slick. Slick. Slick.
But in a good way.
I saw Bernadette Peters’s concert at Strathmore Sunday afternoon, and it was a terrific demonstration of what a large scale concert can and should be. There was a 30+ piece orchestra, amazing lighting, perfect sound, a terrific line-up of songs and a canny, hugely-talented performer.
To answer the first question 3 people asked me: From row K she looked amazing. She was in a sequined champagne, bias-cut chemise dress, slit high on the leg with an abundant display of milky-white shoulder and generous décolletage. The hair was its usual profusion of red tendrils. And a forehead that was capable of motion. All belying the 61 years claimed by her Wikipedia profile.
Peters’s concert also showed exquisite attention to detail. She sang an effective lineup that gave us Peters the vamp (Fever and Nothing Like a Dame), the contemplative soul (Shenandoah, Not a Day Goes By), the passionate inamorata (Johanna, Some Enchanted Evening), and the clown (You Could Drive a Person Crazy). Her patter was well constructed with a spontaneous feel. And not only did she “own” the stage, it felt like she owned the audience, concert hall, parking lot and a good section of Rockville Pike.
One of the best things about her performance is that Peters knows how to space effects and constantly give different portions of herself. She is generally able to create amazing energy and focus standing stock-still and intensely delivering a song. A song with a large ending is followed by a song that fades gently away. A song using the full power of her orchestra is followed by a spare piano arrangement. All accompanied by glorious lighting and perfect sound.
My only quibble with her Peters as a performer is that when she uses a microphone stand, she tends to set it about two inches higher than I would prefer, blocking a good part of her face. Interestingly, when holding the mike in her hand, she tends to hold it lower. On the other hand, while I have seen other performers effectively roll on top of a piano, Peters is the first I’ve seen to bring her own pillow – a large black number – to help in the exercise.
The orchestra sounded superb, under the music direction of Marvin Laird. As a nice touch, key instrumental soloists were acknowledged by Peters after individual songs and literally spotlighted (slick, slick, slick). And as a special touch, one of the drummers was Cubby O’Brien, one of the original Mouseketeers from the Mickey Mouse Club.
Peters’s eleven-o’clock number was a version of With So Little to Be Sure of aimed as a thank-you to her audience, followed by Children Will Listen and Being Alive as the closer. After an appropriate milking of her well-deserved standing ovation, Peters did a perfectly timed run-off and returned for her encore. Introducing it as the companion song to her children’s book Broadway Barks, Peters sang Kramer’s Song as a benediction of love to her audience, ending 75 minutes that were sincere, yes slick, and well-nigh a perfect concert experience.
Here’s the song line-up:
- Let Me Entertain You
- No One is Alone
- There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame
- No More
- Some Enchanted Evening
- When You Wish Upon a Star / A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes
- Not a Day Goes By
- You Could Drive a Person Crazy
- With So Little to Be Sure Of / Children Will Listen
- Move On
- Being Alive
- Kramer’s Song (encore)