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Concert review: Bernadette Peters at the Valley Arts Center

March 4, 2012 |  3:00 pm

Bernadette Peters
There are singers and there are actresses; there are entertainers and there are stars. And then, there is Bernadette Peters. On Saturday night, the nonpareil Broadway artist turned the Valley Performing Arts Center into her own personal salon, with magical results.

From first entrance in a glittering lilac gown that looked as if she'd been poured into it, the diminutive Peters held the capacity crowd in thrall. Launching a jazzy "Let Me Entertain You" with an insinuating focus toward the front row, Peters moved on to "No One Is Alone" from Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods," and her delicately inward intensity hushed the house. Thereafter, she could do no wrong.

Visually, Peters has vaulted time with decades to spare -- her physical maneuvers atop musical director Marvin Laird's piano during "Fever" were especially delicious -- and her comic skills are undiminished, as when selling "There Is Nothing Like a Dame" to the men on the aisle. Vocally, the ineluctable timbre remains essentially intact, any loss of belting power or metrical freedom trumped by a near-legit purity in her upper register and a still potent ability to locate a song's emotional content.

Musical theater material dominated the program, interspersed with delightfully spontaneous patter and gracious introductions of each member of the ace on-stage orchestra, including former Mouseketeer Cubby O'Brien. Her charming "Mister Snow" from "Carousel" and heart-stopping "Some Enchanted Evening" from "South Pacific" (both Rodgers and Hammerstein) were representative poles of Peters' art, but most of the program went to Sondheim, whose songs Peters has few peers at interpreting.

Acknowledging her recently ended turn in the Broadway revival of "Follies" (which is headed to L.A. minus Peters), she delivered "In Buddy's Eyes" and an astonishingly intense "Losing My Mind" with indelible character truth.

And her penultimate "Being Alive" and exquisitely intimate "Goodbye for Now" conveyed the axiomatic, one-on-one communication with an audience that defines a great dramatic chanteuse, and that certainly describes Bernadette Peters.

RELATED:

Spring theater preview: 'Waiting for Godot,' 'Hands on a Hardbody'

Theater reviews from the Los Angeles Times

'Follies' on Broadway: What did the critics think?

-- David C. Nichols

Photo: A 2005 photo of Bernadette Peters. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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