Pictured: Opening night of Keith Lockhart’s 20th year at the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall in Boston. Wednesday, May 6, 2015 with Bernadette Peters. Photo courtesy of Auditorium Theatre.
Review: Bernadette Peters and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra at the Auditorium Theatre
By Rachel Weinberg
Bernadette Peters, arguably one of the most iconic living Broadway legends, commanded every corner of the cavernous Auditorium Theatre on Friday night in a concert accompanied by the Boston Pops. Ms. Peters (for a star so great surely deserves to be addressed with a title) was nothing short of glorious. Her performance was quite literally effervescent; Ms. Peters has such jaw-dropping and precise vocal control that she seemed to float from note to note and, in certain moments, from key to key. To see and hear Ms. Peters live was truly to witness a performer who has earned her legendary status every bit.
The first act of the evening had the Boston Pops masterfully playing some of George Gershwin’s renowned compositions, which was a lovely lead-up to Ms. Peters’s second half that primarily showcased the work of another musical theater luminary: Stephen Sondheim. The Boston Pops performed Gershwin’s overture to “Nice Work If You Can Get It” followed by “An American in Paris” and concluding with one of Gershwin’s masterworks— the ever delightful and enchanting “Rhapsody in Blue.”
When Ms. Peters took the stage following a brief intermission, the energy in the room was palpable. And not only did Ms. Peters display magnificent vocal prowess time and again, she also charmed the pants off the audience. She engaged in cleverly playful banter, including a running joke about her desire to sell her summer house. Ms. Peters was equally playful in some of her numbers, including an outsized and wholly unique rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “There Is Nothing Like A Dame.” When she performed “Fever,” Ms. Peters ascended a flight of stairs in front of the piano and then hopped on; she reclined against a pillow as she leaned into the first few delicious notes of the song and deservingly milked the performance.
But Ms. Peters was perhaps the most extraordinary when she delivered many of Stephen Sondheim’s beautiful and complex songs. She’s known for originating the role of The Witch in Sondheim’s 1987 musical INTO THE WOODS, but she opened the show with an utterly masterful and moving rendition of “No One Is Alone.” Ms. Peters also finessed the oft-sung “Send In The Clowns” from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. And though that song has been covered by many Broadway stars, Ms. Peters made the number feel fresh and wholly her own as each note was positively flawless. Though it would seem hard to top that, Ms. Peters also trotted out two numbers from FOLLIES: “In Buddy’s Eyes” and “Losing My MInd.” I am not exaggerating when I say that seeing Ms. Peters perform “Losing My Mind” was truly a musical theater dream come true, and well, I about lost mine hearing her sing it. Not only did she nail every note, but she acted the song within an inch of its musical life. The performance was musically flawless but also genuinely raw and emotional. Ms. Peters gave much the same treatment to “Being Alive,” the number on which she concluded the evening (she also performed a song that she ostensibly wrote for her dog as an encore).
With every beat onstage and every note she sang, Ms. Peters proved her greatness and cemented her mark as a Broadway master. She had not performed in Chicago for a decade, and this concert was certainly worth the wait.