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Bernadette Peters shines in Bass Hall show

Posted 7:35am on Monday, Jan. 07, 2013

As if we needed to be reminded that we were in for a night of entertainment, Broadway great Bernadette Peters began her show at Bass Performance Hall Saturday night with Let Me Entertain You from the musical Gypsy.

That's a musical in which she starred on Broadway, although she didn't sing that song in it. In fact, a good chunk of the material she performed in this Fort Worth Symphony concert -- heavy on Richard Rodgers and the Broadway composer with whom she's most associated, Stephen Sondheim -- were songs she didn't sing in the shows she was in. (There were exceptions, such as Children Will Listen from Sunday in the Park With George and Losing My Mind from Follies.)

That's the fun of being a Broadway vocalist with an in-demand concert career. We got to her her take on songs like Nothing Like a Dame (South Pacific), Johanna (Sweeney Todd), Being Alive (Company) and (When I Marry) Mister Snow (Carousel).

We know she can interpret a song and transform that girly talking voice into a huge belt in a heartbeat. But the fun of seeing Peters in concert is witnessing how uses that natural charisma to flirt with the material. Constantly flipping back her curly red locks, she's coy one minute, a vixen the next, and knows how to work a dramatic pause.

During Nothing Like a Dame, for instance, she uses her sex appeal, in a spaghetti-strapped sparkly lavender gown, to punctuate the last syllable in "substitute" by perching out her rear end, on "toot." Then, in her in her only pop number, Peggy Lee's Fever, she crawls on the grand piano like a torch singer and illustrates that song with a vocal playfulness that's as slinky as her curves.

She walked into the audience several times, told a funny story from a recent birthday party for Eli Wallach, and returned to a gag about a Florida vacation home she's trying to sell (six bedrooms, five baths if anyone's interested).

The FWSO, conducted by Peters' longtime collaborator Marvin Laird, was in fine form, and warmed us up in the first half with selections from The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady (the first half was conducted by German Gutierrez).

With Peters, we could have danced all night.

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