Music Review: Bernadette Peters in Concert - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭✭✭

Review by Anne Mackie

The overwhelming buzz in the auditorium before the (seemingly) ageless Broadway Goddess took to the stage was nothing short of electrifying. As the pre-set band, tuned up and a loud, bellowing voice uttered the words ‘Miss Bernadette Peters’, the Edinburgh Playhouse instantaneously erupted!

And then she stepped out… Those legs. That hair. That dress... And most of all, that elegant, sultry and seductive voice that we were all there to appreciate.

The Diva had landed… A legend was in the house for what was her first (and only) Scottish tour date.

Although billed as ‘Bernadette Peters in Concert’, one could argue that the evening was more reminiscent of ‘An Audience with Bernadette Peters’. Why? Because Peters' warm rapport and witty familiarity was both naturally endearing and consistently engaging throughout the course of the concert. It was an evening that was conducted (and performed) with poise, ease and panache from start to finish. 

What was most apparent throughout the performance was Peters’ supreme vocal execution of both her most renowned musical numbers and those new arrangements she had prepared especially for the tour. Her rendition of the infamous jazz standard ‘Fever’ was sexy and refined whilst her revamped version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘There Is Nothing Like A Dame’ was so far from the original it became energised, thrilling and engaging - exactly how every woman should musically deliver a classic! However, the pinnacle and ‘standing-ovation-worthy’ moment of the night came when the ultimate Queen of Broadway belted out Sondheim’s masterpiece ‘Being Alive’. Not only did it highlight her unique husky, throaty voice that (still) impeccably leaps between octaves, but it also proved that at 68 years old (yes, I know… WHAT?!) Peters’ vocal control is an undeniable force to be reckoned with! At times, it did feel that Peters was tiring a bit but her mesmerising talent in how to expertly ‘act through song’ remained as flawless as ever. A masterclass in musical theatre performance, if anything. Her renditions of ‘Mr Snow’, ‘Buddy’s Eyes’, ‘Losing My Mind’ and ‘Move On’ proving a huge testament to that theory.

If we are being critical (and I admit, it feels like blasphemy!) it was occasionally felt that the pace of Peters’ concert lagged at times. This could be because the production was very ballad-heavy and could have benefited with the inclusion of a few more up-tempo numbers. Undoubtedly Peters is a master of the ballad (particularly the male ballad!) but on a personal note, I was itching for a vamped up, sultry rendition of ‘Broadway Baby’ – a song that sums Peters up perfectly! Similarly, I also hoped her astonishing version of the great Andrew Lloyd Webber number ‘Unexpected Song’ may appear in the set list but alas, it was not meant to be. A shame, but you can’t have everything.

Bernadette Peters is quite simply indisputable theatre royalty – and her 2016 concert is the unparalleled reason why! She is THE diva amongst divas, an acting singer and a singing actor. With unbounded energy, grace and utter chutzpah, Ms Peters is irreplaceable. A force of musical theatre nature… And one of a kind.