“I Love Being Here With You” – The Music and Unbelievable Life of Miss Peggy Lee! Performed by Delores King Williams at Signature Theatre by Julia L. Exline

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As part of its popular Sizzlin’ Summer Cabarets, Signature Theatre presented  “I Love Being Here With You” – The Music and Unbelievable Life of Miss Peggy Lee!” performed by Delores King Williams. Alongside pianist and Music Director Howard Breitbart, the pair put on a wonderfully engaging show, celebrating the life and work of Peggy Lee, an American jazz and pop singer whose career flourished over a span of 60 decades!

Delores King Williams. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.
Delores King Williams. Photo courtesy of Signature Theatre.

Lighting Designer and Light Board Operator Erin Pritchett used soft pinks and deep blues to highlight the stage, which was decorated with a variety of glowy orange lanterns. The effect was a soothing one, made intimate by the “cabaret-style” setting, which leaves a lit votive candle at every seating. Sound Mixer Chris Baines completed the relaxing atmosphere with clarity and precision.

The show began with Howard Breitbart playing a melody of the song selections, encouraging the audience to snap their fingers along with the beat. Delores King Williams took the stage soon after, and with a warm, welcoming grin, jumped right into the fun with a rendition of “Woman—W-O-M-A-N.”  Charismatic, charming, and delightfully funny, Delores shared details of both her own life and the life of Peggy Lee between numbers, painting Peggy as a strong woman—a survivor—who gave live performances into the last stages of her life, wheel chaired and carrying along her oxygen tank, which she had fondly nicknamed “Woman—W-O-M-A-N”

The nature of the songs ranged from the playful “A Doodlin’Song,” the slow “You’re Getting to be a Habit with Me,” and the upbeat, happy “Lover.” A particularly nice number was Delores’ emotional rendition of “Nobody’s Heart,” which reflected the heartache of Peggy Lee’s first divorce. Peggy Lee also contributed lyrics to the songs for many motion pictures, perhaps the most famous being Walt Disney’s first full-length feature film Lady and the Tramp. Delores covered a couple of songs from this movie, including “Bella Notte” and “La La Loo.” These songs, like many from the song list, had a slow, hypnotizing effect; grown-up lullabies that relax and soothe. However, before you got a chance for your eyelids to get too heavy, Delores and Howard amped up the tempo with a playful parody of the controversial “Mañana,” and the foot-stomping “Hard-Hearted Hannah.”

Delores maintained that while Peggy’s songs may have been wistful, like the woman herself, they were about hope, strength, and looking forward with optimism.  This was especially seen in the hits “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” and “Is That All There Is?” where Delores reflected on her own personal memories, including a house fire in her youth and a trip to the circus.

Although I knew the Peggy Lee sultry hit Fever, I was surprised to learn that many songs that I grew up listening to were also penned by Peggy Lee. While the songs themselves were highly enjoyable, the best part of the evening was Delores KIng herself, who addressed the audience as one would a close friend, and had a powerhouse voice that was able to both set you on the edge of your seat and lull you into relaxed state within minutes of each other. King and Breitbart had a friendly chemistry, and pooled their incredible talents to give a night of exceptional entertainment.

Peggy Lee.
Peggy Lee.

I had a wonderful time at “I Love Being Here With You” – The Music and Unbelievable Life of Miss Peggy Lee! If this show was a sample of what to expect with the Sizzlin’ Summer Cabarets, then sign me up for the rest of the lineup!

Running Time: One hour and 15 minutes, without an intermission.

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“I Love Being Here With You” – The Music and Unbelievable Life of Miss Peggy Lee! Was performed on August 7 2013 at Signature Theatre– 4200 Campbell Avenue, in Arlington, VA. For more Sizzlin’ Summer Cabarets, please visit their website.