If anyone doubts the vocal prowess of Bernadette Peters or that she is one of the finest Sondheim interpreters of our era, he need only watch Bernadette Peters in Concert for proof. This hour-and-a-half songfest, which will begin airing on PBS stations around the country in August, captures a faultless Peters, who is in exceptional voice and at the peak of her craft. The concert was taped live at London's Royal Festival Hall last year, following its sold-out debut at Carnegie Hall -- both directed with finesse by Richard Jay-Alexander. The program will not only delight Peters fans, but it should win her a slew of new ones as those around the country watch the consummate skill and emotion that Peters brings to a mostly Sondheim evening. It's evident that much time and energy were spent to capture the evening; in fact, five cameras were used to film the concert, and, thankfully, the TV audience doesn't miss a moment of Peters' sensational work.
Divided into four sections (one assumes there will be a pledge break between each part), the evening begins with Peters gliding onstage to rapturous applause. In fact, there's something about her presence -- perhaps it's the infectious smile or the cascading curls -- that puts you completely at ease when she first appears. Even before she begins singing, you feel Peters is a friend, and you know you're in for a wonderful, emotion-filled evening. The star begins her generous program with the now-legendary opening, a medley of "We're in the Money" and "Pennies from Heaven" that at one point has the two-time Tony winner singing in, you guessed it, Pig Latin. Peters then has some fun with one of her trademark tunes, Stephen Sondheim's "Broadway Baby," forcefully singing the climactic lines: "If I stick it long enough, I can get to strut my stuff. Working for a nice man, like a Ziegfeld or a Weissman in a big time Broadwaaaaay shoooooow." She reveals her tenderness in the next Sondheim offering, "No One Is Alone," a song -- albeit one she didn't sing - from her 1988 Broadway triumph, Into the Woods. The current Annie Oakley follows by vamping her way through "Sooner or Later," and then switches from Sondheim to Andrew Lloyd Webber, reprising two songs from her award-winning run in Webber's Song & Dance, "Second Letter Home" and "Unexpected Song." During the excerpt from "Second Letter Home," Peters jokingly asks the British audience, "How's my accent?" She then proceeds to send "Unexpected Song" soaring, belting the final verse before switching to a gorgeous head tone on the last note.
The second part of the evening begins with an intensely focused version of J. D. Souther's "Faithless Love," on which Peters is accompanied solely by musical director Marvin Laird on piano. The haunting tune is followed by her tongue-in-cheek version of Dames at Sea's "Raining in My Heart," featuring four umbrella-twirling chorus boys. And, this section concludes with a show-stopping version of Sondheim and Jule Styne's "Some People," a song that Peters -- who starred in a road company of Gypsy while a teenager -- knew she would someday sing.
The third portion of the evening is all Sondheim -- featuring Peters in an all-black gown and her mountain of curls swept up -- and the star lovingly dedicates this section to "the genius of Stephen Sondheim," the man responsible for two of her greatest stage appearances, Sunday in the Park with George and the aforementioned Into the Woods. Peters sounds her most beautiful on the first offering -- Sweeney Todd's "Johanna" -- her luscious, rounded head tones floating through the theatre, and she seems to hold the last note of the haunting song for an eternity. A comical pairing of "Hello Little Girl" and "Any Moment," both from Into the Woods, follows, and then she delivers A Little Night Music's "Later" with center-stage cello accompaniment. Peters easily sails through a tongue-twisting, tour de force performance of "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," and two of the evening's outstanding performances follow: her flawless rendition of "Not a Day Goes By" and an uplifting, full-voiced take on the Company anthem, "Being Alive." In "Not a Day Goes By," Peters is at her most vulnerable, letting a torrent of emotion pour from inside her: Watch how she sings "I'll die day after day after day after day after..." imbuing each repetition with more and more emotion--simply thrilling.
The fourth and final portion of the evening includes two additional Sondheim offerings: a gorgeous pairing of "With So Little To Be Sure Of" (one of my favorite Sondheim tunes) and "Children Will Listen" as well as another trademark Peters song, Sunday in the Park with George's "Move On." She then returns to the stage for two encores simply backed by piano: the WWII standard "I'll Be Seeing You" and a medley of "My Romance" and "Just the Way You Look Tonight."
What is, perhaps, best about this concert is the fact that it preserves a performance of one of the quintessential musical theatre actresses of our time. Since theatre/concert work is rarely filmed for the general public, I am thankful that Peters' stellar performance in London's Royal Festival Hall will be available to musical theatre fans for generations to come. Bernadette Peters in Concert perfectly captures the artist and her art.
**The concert will air in New York on Channel 13 on August 7 at 8 PM and on Channel 21 on August 12 at 8 PM. (A home video version of the concert will also be available and is set to include two additional songs cut from the PBS program: Sondheim's "Happiness" and Jerry Herman's "Time Heals Everything." A DVD version may also be released featuring one or two other cut songs. Stay tuned for more.) Also, Peters will make a guest appearance on "Live with Regis & Kathie Lee" on Tuesday, July 20 to promote her upcoming special. "Regis & Kathie Lee" airs on ABC stations at 9 AM. And, finally, what follows is the city-by-city air dates for Bernadette Peters in Concert:
New York (WNET/13) August 7 at 8 PM
New York (WNET/21) August 12 at 8 PM
Los Angeles (KCET/28) August 7 at 8 PM
Chicago (WTTW/11) August 15 at 8 PM
Philadelphia (WHYY/12) August 1 at 9 PM
San Francisco (KQED/9) August 15 at 9:30 PM
Boston (WGBH/44) August 7 at 8 PM
Washington (WETA/26) August 8 at 9 PM
Dallas (KERA/13) August 15 at 8:30 PM
Detroit (WTVS/56) August 11 at 7:30 PM
Atlanta (GA-PTV/8) August 8 at 9 PM
Tampa (WEDU/3) August 7 at 9 PM
Miami (WPBT/2) August 7 at 8 PM
Denver (KRMA/6) August 8 at 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh (WQED/13) August 11 at 9 PM
Sacramento (KVIE/6) August 11 at 9 PM
St. Louis (KETC/9) August 8 at 8 PM
Orlando (WFME/24) August 7 at 9 PM
Albany (WMHT/17) August 7 at 8 PM
Baltimore (MD-PTV/22) August 15 at 9:30 PM
Indianapolis (WFYI/20) August 16 at 8 PM
San Diego (KPBS/15) August 7 at 8 PM
Hartford (CPTV/24) August 8 at 7 PM
New Orleans (WYES/12) August 14 at 9 PM
Harrisburg (WITF/33) August 6 at 9 PM
Syracuse (WCNY/24) August 10 at 8 PM
Columbus (WOSE/34) August 8 at 8 PM
IN OTHER NEWS Add Thursday, May 4, 2000, to the always-growing list of Betty Buckley concerts. The one-and-only Buckley will perform at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, California, on that date. Tickets range from $40 to $45 and may be purchased by calling (858) 748-0505 . . . On Sunday, July 25, Alice Ripley and her band, Uncle Daddy, will appear at the West Bank Cafe at 9:30 PM The West Bank Cafe is located at 407 West 42nd Street; call (212) 695-6909 for reservations. By the way, Ripley fans will be happy to learn that Ripley now has her own website. . . . "Jeremy [Kushnier]'s really the motor of the show. We have a similar relationship offstage. He always calls me Mom. When I first met him, I thought, 'I can't be his mother! This is ridiculous!' Then, I met his mother. She's younger than I am! People in Manhattan have kids later." So says Footloose's Catherine Cox in an upcoming Playbill interview by Harry Haun . . .VCR alert: Three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald's Boston Pops performance will air in the Metropolitan area this Thursday night, July 22, on PBS (8 PM). McDonald's repertoire will include songs by Harold Arlen as well as some of her favorite new composers.
Next week: Patti LuPone's upcoming CD, "Matters of the Heart."
A host of new concert dates follows. The list is continually growing, so check the Betty Buckley website on PBOL for the latest changes.
July 20 Point Lookout in Camden, ME
July 27 Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA
October 9 Tilles Center in Greenvale, NY
October 22 (class); October 23 (concert) Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; Foellinger Great Hall in Champaign-Urbana, IL
October 24 Sangamon Stage University Auditorium; Springfield, IL
November 6 State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ
November 14 Cincinnati, OH (venue to come)
December 6-7 St. Barths Church in New York, NY
December 17 City Center in Coral Springs, FL
December 18 Atlantic University Auditorium in Boca Raton, FL
December 31 Shubert Performing Arts Center in New Haven, CT
May 4, 2000 Poway Center for the Performing Arts in Poway, CA
LuPone's "Matters of the Heart" album will be available in August over her soon-to-be-launched website, pattilupone.net. The recording will also be available in stores beginning in September. La LuPone will join opera star Bryn Terfel for a concert version of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall from May 4 to May 6 in the year 2000. The performers will be backed by the New York Philharmonic, and the event, which will be recorded, will celebrate Sondheim's 70th birthday. KAREN MASON
On Sept. 25 Mason will perform in concert to benefit Dallas Children's Theatre Fairmont Hotel, Dallas.
From July 15 through the end of the month, McGovern will appear in a production of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the Sundance Summer Theatre in Sundance, Utah. Other concert dates follow:
August 14 Maureen McGovern and the Duke Ellington Orchestra (100th Anniversary Salute: The Great Auditorium at Ocean Grove, NJ
August 19-20 Midway Stage at 1776: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
August 23 SCERA Amphitheater: Orem , Utah
August 24 Kenley Centennial Amphitheater: Layton, Utah
September 5-6 Jerry Lewis Telethon (check local listings)
Elaine Paige will make a special guest-star appearance during Cliff Richards' concerts this month (July 16-18) at London's Hyde Park. These performances are part of The Unique Concert Series of The Royal Parks Season. Paige is set to sing a few of her biggest hits ("Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "Memory," et. al) and will join Richards on a few duets as well. For tickets and additional information, call 011 44 171 344 4040.
The two-time Tony winning star of Annie Get Your Gun will host the first presentation of Broadway Barks!, a star-studded cat and dog adoption event to be held at Shubert Alley on Saturday, July 24 from 5PM to 7 PM Proceeds from the event will be donated to the FIDO/NYC fund, and the evening is made possible with the support of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. For further information, call (212) 227-BARK!
DIVAS AT THE DONMAR
Patti LuPone is the first diva at the Donmar Warehouse, performing her new concert act, "Matters of the Heart," from August 9 through August 21. Audra McDonald's reign runs from Aug. 23-28, and Sam Brown will open on Aug. 31 and close Sept. 4. The performance schedule is Monday through Saturday at 8pm with matinees on Saturday at 4 PM. Tickets go on sale Monday, May 17; call 011 44 171 637 9041 for reservations.
Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching!
by Andrew Gans
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