Edinburgh Playhouse – 7 June 2016
Guest reviewer: Martin Gray
Broadway legend Bernadette Peters graces the Playhouse stage on the final night of her three-date UK tour, after London and Manchester. And the crowd goes wild.
“We are expecting Miss Peters to be on stage promptly at 7:30pm, please be in your seats…”
Promptly? Is that any way for a Diva to behave? Bernadette Peters, veteran of countless hit shows, double Tony Award winner, muse to Stephen Sondheim? Prompt?
Well, she is on time – and the audience couldn’t be happier; I’ve never seen anyone politely take bows before they sing a note, but when she appears after the overture, stepping into a simple, classy lighting design, the audience members clap wildly, bonkers excited to see a Broadway legend on stage in Edinburgh, close enough to, well, if not touch, at least to worship.
Not that Peters demands adoration. As well as being professionally prompt she’s wonderfully warm and down to earth. Still grateful, after a feted, 50-year career, that people want to hear her sing.
And sing she does, opening with a cute Let Me Entertain You, closing with Kramer’s Song, a sweet lullaby for her dog with words and music by Peters herself… no, wait, stay with me, it was written to raise cash for animal charities, and is really rather lovely – you don’t interpret the greats of musical theatre for a lifetime without learning a thing or two.
In between, Peters – resplendent in glittering lilac, trademark curls bobbing behind her – gives a masterclass in singing for the stage. She doesn’t always act out the numbers, as she does with the heartbreaking Move On, from Sunday in the Park with George, and tender In Buddy’s Eyes, from Follies, but she always lives them. The songs are Peters’ DNA, potential energy she releases in carefully controlled charges – sometimes a slow flow of power, as with Send in the Clowns – Follies again – at others, a sharp burst of electricity to raise the roof, as with Being Alive from Company.
Yes, there’s a lot of Sondheim here, but if you like Peters’ voice, it’s pretty darn likely you love Sondheim. So bring on Losing My Mind (Follies), unleash Children Will Listen (Into the Woods), give us that rare treat of With So Little To Be Sure Of from the woefully under-staged Anyone Can Whistle, the ridiculous beauty of Joanna (Sweeney Todd) and a spine-tingling No One Is Alone (those Woods again). If there’s a Sondheim mood, Peters can capture it, convey it, make us feel the emotions, feel alive.
Bernadette Peters. Photo: contributed
She can also surprise, with her witty take on Nothing Like a Dame from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific or seductive Fever, delivered supine on the piano of longtime musical director/genius Marvin Laird.
There’s a truly gorgeous When You Wish Upon a Star (Pinocchio), a delightful Mr Snow (more R&H: Carousel), It Might as Well Be Spring (State Fair) … again and again Peters bewitches with her perfect phrasing, her fine tone, the sheer musicality of her instrument and luminous presence.
And Laird’s ten-piece ‘Edinburgh Playhouse Orchestra’ are with her all the way, delivering his superb arrangements with understanding and skill. Together, they’re tremendous, but some of the best moments come when just one or two musicians join Peters and purity reigns, such as Laird himself on Children Will Listen. A big surprise is a blisteringly hot performance of the old Rosemary Clooney number Come On A My House, which Peters revived in recent Amazon TV show Mozart in the Jungle. Phew.
After the standing ovations, the gathering outside the theatre, fans standing in the midsummer evening light – Peters and friends gave 90 minutes, no interval – with going home the last thing on their minds. They just want to stay by the theatre, talk about what they’ve seen. No one wants to let the evening with Bernadette Peters go. That’s true star quality.
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes (no interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 7 June 2016. Run ended.
Bernadette Peters’ website: http://www.bernadettepeters.com/
Bernadette Peters on Twitter: @OfficialBPeters
Bernadette Peters on Facebook: BernadettePeters