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November 3, 2008

Guest review of Bernadette Peters in Chimes benefit


There really is nothing like a dame – especially if the dame in question is Bernadette Peters.

The effervescent Tony Award-winning singer and actress took over the stage at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall over the weekend and helped to raise $435,000 for Chimes, a nonprofit organization that provides services for disabled children and adults. Peters put a decidedly idiosyncratic spin on standards from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Stephen Sondheim to such Americana as "Shenandoah." In her slinky champagne-colored gown and with her trademark head of brass-colored curls, she looked -- and, more importantly, sounded -- decades younger than her 60 years.

She was at her most effective delivering songs not usually tackled by women. For instance, Peters turned "There Is Nuthin Like a Dame" -- sung in South Pacific by romance-deprived sailors on shore leave -- into an exultant anthem of self-affirmation. And the musical highlight of the evening was her exquisite rendition of "Johanna," the love ballad from Sweeney Todd.

After the show, Peters greeted admirers backstage and said: "I have to make a song my own. That’s how I keep it interesting. And, sometimes, I learn things about the song when I'm singing it, which is really great."

Unfortunately, the band, which was a compilation of some musicians that the singer brought with her (including former Mouseketeer Cubby O'Brien on the drums) and the Baltimore Jazz Orchestra, was at times so loud it drowned out the star. The imbalance was at its most unforgivable when Peters launched into some of Sondheim-s most lyrically-complex songs: "You Could Drive A Person Crazy" and "Being Alive," both from Company. Peters is enough of a pro so that she could usually make herself heard over the band. Still, it shouldn’t have been a contest.

-- Mary Carole McCauley



Posted by Tim Smith at 1:40 PM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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