AN EVENING WITH BERNADETTE PETERS

by DICK KEREKES
Thanks to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, on Wednesday January 19, residents of North Florida had the opportunity to see and hear one of the elite musical theatre performers, the incomparable Bernadette Peters.
Conductor Fabio Mechetti and the members of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra opened the festival evening for the capacity audience in the Times Union Center, with a half hour pop concert, that included familiar songs from the musicals, Wizard of Oz and My Fair Lady.
After a fifteen minute intermission, the singing diva the crowd had waited for came on. Bernadette Peters was dressed in very simmering sequined gown. For her performance her musical director for many years, Marvin Laird led the orchestra and played the piano.
The next hour was filled with songs from very attractive lady. She is 62 years old but does not look it. I don’t think most of the audience was aware that she was a professional performer before most of them were born. Ms. Peters received her actor’s equity card at age 9 and has been performing for fifty one years.
She is in the Theatre Hall of Fame and was the youngest member ever selected. This was my only real connection to her in anyway, since I have never reviewed one of her concerts or musical theatre performances, but as a member of the American Theatre Critics Association I did vote for her into the hall.
Ms. Peters did some talking to the audience commenting on the Jacksonville weather. (Cold! but she had just come from New York and all that snow and expected it to be much warmer here.) She talked a bit about the real estate market and how she is trying to sell a house in South Florida. “Anyone interested?” she asked. She did introduce some of the song selections but mainly she moved from one number to another in a musical revue without a theme but designed to display her marvelous voice and its incredible range.
She said she was singing one song for the very first time, Peggy Lee’s “Fever” and that she sang while stretched out on the top of the piano. Sexy, yes very sexy.
Other selections were two songs from “South Pacific, “There is Nothing like a Dame” and “Some Enchanted Evening”. For the few children in the audience, she sang the Disney number, “When you Wish Upon a Star”.
Peters was at her best with the slow numbers and the best of the evening was “Across the Wide Missouri” accompanied by Mr. Laid with just a few notes on the piano. Ms. Peters is a big fan of Sondheim and any concert she does is sure to include several selections from him.
As I have written, she mostly sang, although she did tell one joke about a 90 old man who was given an unusual gift on this birthday. A call girl who knocked on his door the door birthday evening and says “I am here to give you supersex.” To which the old man replies “I’ll take the soup!!!! (You may have to read it a couple of times to get it. The audience loved it.)
Ms. Peters finished the show with “Being Alive” from Company, then returned for an encore and singing a song she wrote about her dog “Kramer”. She wrote this as a fund raiser for her personal pet project “Broadway Barks” that assists abandoned animals.
I talked with some of the fans as we exited the TU center. We all agreed we would have loved to hear her sing, “Send in the Clowns” from the show she just finished in New York, “A Little Night Music”. I personally wanted her to sing more of the songs from the two shows she won Tonys in, especially “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” from “Anne Get Your Gun.
Well another great evening at the Symphony. I am sure that next year, JSO will again bring in one of the superstar singers. If you missed this concert, you missed a good. Oh, just in case you did not get enough of the sparkling Bernadette Peters. She will be in Sondheim’s Follies at the Lincoln Center in Washington in the spring.

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