M ulti-talented performer Bernadette Peters sprinkled a lot of Broadway magic across the stage — and a few times into the aisles of the audience — during a concert Saturday night at the Noorda Center For the Performing Arts.
The three-time Tony Award winner mainly focused on her singing chops at the Utah Valley University concert, but her flair for the dramatic was also in evidence as she punctuated her performance with some dance steps, exaggerated arm movements and flipping of her trademark curly hair at all the right moments.
“It’s so wonderful to be here in Utah,” she said early in the show, making specific mention of the picturesque local mountains. “I’ve been taking pictures of them all day long.”
In introducing “No One is Alone” from “Into the Woods,” Peters, 71, noted that her character didn’t sing this song in the play, but said, “I love this song and I try to sing it as often as possible.”
Peters vamped things up a bit during a rollicking “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame.” She exaggerated her stage movements and poses, adding a little “oomph” to the proceedings. Peters even took a trek down into the audience, and picked out a semi-startled gentleman in an aisle seat on the front row for special attention. She knelt down on one knee and briefly serenaded him, before eventually returning to the stage.
“That’s not how they did it in ‘South Pacific,’ “ she said. “(But) that’s how we do it.”
With the temperature starting to rise, Peters turned up the heat even further with a sultry rendition of the old R&B classic “Fever.” The song featured the rhythmic thumpings of bassist Kevin Axt, who kept the beat moving along while Peters cavorted around the stage and even took up residence lying across the top of the piano — in a scene semi-reminiscent of Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie “The Fabulous Baker Boys.”
Peters was backed by an 11-piece band, including some of her own entourage as well as orchestra members from Utah Valley University. In addition to Axt, the other members of the band included Marvin Laird (piano, conductor), Cubby O’Brien (drums), Marcel Bowman (violin), Katie Frandsen (violin), Jon Kahanunui (viola), Monika Rosborough-Bowman (cello), Daron Bradford (woodwinds), Brittney Woodis (woodwinds), Maddy Tarantelli (French horn) and Luca Florin (oboe, E-horn).
Peters said she had only recently begun doing concerts again, since she spent a good portion of last year performing in “Hello, Dolly!” on Broadway, where she took over the title role from Bette Midler from January through its closing in July.
Later in her set, Peters delivered back-to-back “Hello, Dolly!” numbers from her character Dolly Gallagher Levi — “Before the Parade Passes By” and “So Long Dearie” — complete with some illuminating backstory to the role.
At another juncture, she also performed a pair of consecutive songs from her role as Sally Durrant Plummer in “Follies.” Those two songs were “In Buddy’s Eyes” and “Losing My Mind.”
Another key moment in the show was Peters’ intimate delivery of the tragic-poignant “Send in the Clowns,” the Stephen Sondheim classic from “A Little Night Music.”
Peters closed her main set with “Being Alive,” another Sondheim number, before briefly leaving the stage and returning to perform a song she wrote herself, “Kramer’s Song.”
In introducing the final song, Peters noted that she had been asked to write a children’s book to benefit her pet-adoption charity Broadway Barks.
“All of a sudden, I was on a plane when this song came to me, lyrics and music at the same time,” she said. “It’s called ‘Kramer’s Song,’ which was the name of my dog at that time.”
Peters’ appearance is the latest in a Tony Award-filled 2019-20 season at the Noorda. Peters joins the ranks of past Tony winners Jason Alexander and Audra McDonald, who have performed in concert earlier this season.