Guest review of Bernadette Peters in Chimes benefit
(MY COLLEAGUE AT THE SUN, MARY CAROLE McCAULEY, HAS PROVIDED THIS REPORT ON A NOTABLE CONCERT IN BALTIMORE)
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
BALTIMORE SUN FILE PHOTO (by Firooz Zahedi)