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Bernadette Peters in Concert review at Royal Festival Hall, London – ‘Broadway royalty’

Bernadette Peters

Bernadette, like Barbra and Bette, is a Broadway Baby who one can identify by just the one name. Everyone – or at least everyone in the know – will immediately know you mean Bernadette Peters, the closest Broadway has to royalty, who for nearly 60 years has been appearing on the New York stage (having made her debut at the age of 10). Yet her ringleted, flame-coloured hair, which – in the words of New York magazine drama critic John Simon, make her look like a bonsai – and her flawless alabaster skin, could see her passing for 40.

Her signature collaborations with composer Stephen Sondheim began some 32 years ago, when she created the role of Dot in the original production of Sunday in the Park with George, and her return to the London concert stage for the first time in 18 years saw her performing the glorious Move On from that score.

It feels like time stands still as she sings it, the rich dramatic swoop of her voice giving fiery passion to its cry for the single-mindedness of artistic ambition.

Sondheim is also spellbindingly represented in this concert by Follies (in which Peters most recently appeared on Broadway in a revival of the show as Sally), A Little Night Music – she played Desiree in succession to Catherine Zeta-Jones in the Menier Chocolate Factory revival, and reprised Send in the Clowns with intensity; Company, in which she thrillingly appropriates Being Alive which is usually sung by a man; Anyone Can Whistle, via the hauntingly melodic With So Little to be Sure of,  and of course Into the Woods, via Children will Listen, another song she originated.

There’s also a satisfying sprinkling of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and a sizzling version of Fever that sees her sprawled across the grand piano. It’s such a shame she’s never appeared in a West End show, but this concert provides partial compensation.

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The New York theatrical legend lives up to her exalted status