The plaintive power of “Time Heals Everything,” from Jerry Herman’s “Mack and Mabel,” was among the non-Sondheim highlights of the theater music (while Andrew Lloyd Webber’s overblown “Unexpected Song” found Peters in dangerously high vocal territory at the close), and J.D. Souther’s “Faithless Love,” delivered with quiet simplicity, was the lone inclusion from Peters’ absolutely first-rate new country-rock CD.
The first act closed with the Sondheim-Styne “Some People,” which Peters gave the full-pizzazz treatment it demands. But for all her vocal power, Mama Rose Peters ain’t; she exudes a sweetness that the legendary character would trample on, taking a full five minutes to introduce and recount the accomplishments of the four dancers who joined her for just one number (the somewhat drippy “Raining in My Heart” from “Dames at Sea”).
Act two was an eclectic collection culled from the Sondheim canon, which gave it a shapeliness the first act’s variety didn’t allow. Peters was at her comically charming best in a medley from “Into the Woods” (“Hello Little Girl/Any Moment”), playing the wolf with gusto. She brought the requisite elegance to the haunting “Johanna” from “Sweeney Todd,” and the quiet ache of “Not a Day Goes By” was rendered with almost palpable emotion. From “Company” came the snazzier “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” and the de rigueur “Being Alive.” Show closed appropriately with “Move On,” a tune from “Sunday in the Park With George,” in which Peters starred.
The Universal Amphitheatre crowd was devoted, but a smaller venue would have accommodated all comers and brought a little more intimacy. With luck, she’ll come back without the sequins and heels, and play a club date that would show she brings as much authentic style to honky-tonk rock as she does to the higher-brow theatrics of Sondheim.