“Let Me Entertain You” belted Bernadette Peters as she burst onto the stage to begin the Arts by George! benefit at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts. And boy did she ever—this diva of the Broadway stage kicked off George Mason University’s 25th Anniversary season in style, entertaining the audience with some of Broadway’s greatest showstoppers.
Arts by George! is a college-wide event held to benefit student scholarships in Art, Dance, Music, Theater, Arts Management, Computer Game Design, and Film and Video Studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, as well as the Center for the Arts Great Performances at Mason season. So to celebrate this 10th annual event, George Mason University invited Broadway legend Bernadette Peters.
A two-time Tony Award winner, Peters has starred in five different Stephen Sondheim musicals including Sunday in the Park with George and Follies, as well as a variety of other shows including Song and Dance and Annie Get Your Gun. Her vocal skills and larger-than-life personality were showcased tonight to incredible effect and the audience’s great delight.
Between a sexy, hilarious version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” and a sultry, seductive cover of “Fever” sung entirely while Peters was lying on the piano, she showed off the strength and power of her voice, as well as her skillful control and range. During “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame” she ventured off stage and picked a man in the audience to serenade as she sang lower and lower notes—to great comic effect!
The highlight of the night came when she sang two songs from her turn in Follies: starting with a moving “In Buddy’s Eyes” and culminating in a devastating “Losing My Mind.” The sheer vocal control and skill she exhibited as she navigated the emotional highs and lows of each piece, used both the dynamics and the force of her voice to show the emotional breakdown of the character. Her performance was a master class in and of itself, alternately fragile and bracingly intense—she certainly has a legitimate claim to the title of “foremost interpreter of Sondheim.”
The Sondheim love continued with Peters’ beautifully restrained version of “Send in the Clowns.” While restrained, the passion and regret of the character was more than evident, and Peters’ voice was clear and pure and lovely. She also sang a medley of “With So Little to be Sure Of” and “Children Will Listen,” which was throaty and mellow and beautiful.
The night ended with one of Peters’ signature songs, “Being Alive” from Company. The roughness and raw quality of her voice only added to the intensity and power of the song.
The concert was greatly enhanced by the orchestra accompanying Peters, including Marvin Laird, Cubby O’Brien, Peter Wilson, Regino Madrid, Tam Tran, Marcio Botelho, Aaron Clay, Marty Nau, Ben Bokor, and Amy Horn. Their skill and musicality added greatly to the richness and fullness of the songs Peters sang.
Running Time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.
Bernadette Peters performed on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 8 PM at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts – 4373 Mason Pond Drive, in Fairfax, VA. For upcoming events at The Center for the Arts, check their calendar of events.