Sondheim Society Patron Bernadette Peters performed in her first London solo concert for more than 15 years on Friday 3rd June, delighting the capacity audience at the Royal Festival Hall with a diverse programme that encompassed Jule Styne, Rodgers and Hammerstein and, of course, Stephen Sondheim, with a bit of Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee thrown in for good measure.
Looking – literally – half her age, the beautiful Bernadette sashayed on stage and remained there for 90 glorious minutes, delivering a thrilling cabaret backed by MD Marvin Laird and her regular drummer and bassist, supported by eight guest musicians from the UK. From her opening number – the apt “Let Me Entertain You” from Gypsy – through to her self-penned encore “Kramer’s Song”, about her pet dog, Bernadette proved why she’s up there with the other great Bs: Barbra Streisand, Barbara Cook, Betty Buckley, Pearl Bailey and Carol Burnett.
Among the Sondheim songs selected were “In Buddy’s Eyes” and “Losing My Mind” from Follies, “Johanna” from Sweeney Todd, “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music, “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods, “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George, and “Being Alive” from Company.
As well as wowing the audience with her vocals, Peters also revealed her mischievous side, cracking jokes and boasting repeatedly about just how lovely her house in Florida is. A true entertainer, she had every single person in the palm of her hand for the entire evening, and the inevitable standing ovation felt truly genuine – a wave of love from her UK fans, who’ve yet had the chance to see her in a West End production.
After the show, Ms Peters welcomed the Society Trustees to her green room, where she graciously answered everyone’s questions and posed for photographs. Among those also present backstage were Elaine Paige (who starred alongside Bernadette in the Marquis Follies on Broadway in 2011) and Alexander Hanson, who played opposite her on Broadway as Frederik in A Little Night Music in 2010 following its transfer from the Menier Chocolate Factory).
Bernadette Peters is one of the most loved musical-theatre performers, and there are few singers more experienced than she with the works of Stephen Sondheim. Let’s hope that this fleeting visit to the UK is the start of something more, as who wouldn’t love to see her in one of Steve’s shows over here!?
Let Me Entertain You
No-one Is Alone
There is Nothing Like a Dame
It Might as Well be Spring
In Buddy’s Eyes
Losing My Mind
Send in the Clowns
Come on a My House
When You Wish Upon a Star / A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes
With So Little to be Sure of / Children Will Listen
Encore: Kramer’s Song
Bernadette Peters: Royal Festival Hall, London (3 June), Manchester Opera House (5 June) and Edinburgh Playhouse (7 June).