‘Terri White at Barbara Cook’s Spotlight’ at The Kennedy Center by David Friscic

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Terri White, Broadway musical favorite and recent star of The Kennedy Center’s production of Follies and the recent Broadway production of Finian’s Rainbow, held the audience in the palm of her hand for a scintillating set of nineteen songs – singing with her signature style of jazz-infused Broadway, pop, and traditional standards. White has always been hard to categorize as a performer for she is such an interesting hybrid of musical styles – jazz artist, Broadway belter, intimate cabaret stylist, and a theatrical actress of considerable comic verve and dramatic pathos. White brought all these elements to the fore for a rapt and receptive audience for one-night only at The Kennedy Center’s Barbara Cook’s Spotlight series. With two encores and numerous standing ovations, the audience was reluctant to let this generous and vibrant performer leave the stage.

White performed her cycle of songs in a beautiful black pants suit with a silver sequined jacket and top and was backed-up by the superb Bobby Peaco on piano (also the Musical Director) and Ivan “Funkboy” Bodley on Bass.

Terri White. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Terri White. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

White quite properly opened her act with the song “Sweet Beginnings,” beguiling her audience at the start and then launching into a beautifully rendered version of “Teach Me Tonight”. Her version of the popular standard “Here’s That Rainy Day” was a high point of the show, building to a rueful and melancholy coda.

White mentioned that she had understudied Nell Carter in Ain’t Misbehavin’ and, then, did a spot-on and scathing impersonation of Carter singing “Mean to Me.” White and pianist Peaco livened up the pace a bit with a very humorous and affectionate duet – taking a trip on “Route 66.”

A lush, romantic medley of “You Are So Beautiful to Me” and “More Than You Know” brought the house down with White’s impeccable phrasing – underscored by her very intimate and tremulous tone.

A rousing cover of the perennial favorite “God Bless the Child” was blasted to the rafters with theatrical bravado. Never have I heard such an emotionally wrenching and intense version of “Everything Must Change” – which White built to a devastating rumination on the unforgiving nature of time.

Yet another humorous change of pace was delivered in White’s sly and bawdy rendition of “When You’re Good to Mama” from Chicago.

White’s cover of “Here’s to Life” was even more powerful than the versions of Streisand and Shirley Horn – culminating with White raising a toast to her appreciative audience.

Encores of “Who Can I Turn To” and “Summertime” brought the audience to its feet.

Terri White is a brilliant artist working at the peak of her powers.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Terri White performed at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater on January 25, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. For more information on future Kennedy Center events, visit their website.

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