It took Tony Award-winning song stylist Bernadette Peters about two minutes before she had the audience at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts eating out of her hand. She entered as a blaze of bronze glitter and spangles (showing ample cleavage, her hair a cascade of ringlets) and proceeded to offer an evening of songs that ran the gamut from Oscar Hammerstein to Lyle Lovett. She also performed elegant renditions of signature material by Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
There is an illusive, quicksilver quality to Peters’ personality on stage that is totally fascinating. One moment she’s the sultry vamp exuding sexuality out of every pore. The next she’s the girl next door, all fidgety and self-conscious. She can be as cutesy as Betty Boop or dynamic in the style of Judy Garland. She can sink totally into the character of a song, as she did in Lyle Lovett’s “Pearl’s a Singer” and Sondheim’s “Not a Day Goes By,” or she can have fun with old standards such as “Glow Worm” and “We’re in the Money.”
For her purring rendition of Sondheim’s “Sooner or Later” (from “Dick Tracy”) she reclined on a piano like a bronze pussycat and aimed a few catty comments at “that other blond bombshell” (Madonna). “You know, we both have religious names, ” she quipped.
Performing at the center of the hall and flanked by a small orchestra conducted by her musical director Marvin Laird, Peters performed a carefully modulated program.
She delivered lyrical renditions of Broadway show tunes like Sondheim’s “No One Is Alone” from “Into the Woods,” Webber’s “Unexpected Song” from “Song and Dance,” and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Mr. Snow” from “Carousel”; added country flavor with seamless ballad-style interpretations of Hank Williams’ classic “I’m So Lonely I Could Cry” and J.D. Souther’s “Faithless Love”; used the song “Making Love Alone” to provide a nice comic touch; and concluded the evening with a tribute to the songs of Harold Arlen.