Music Reviews: PINK MARTINI / BERNADETTE PETERS (San Francisco Symphony)

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by Chuck Louden on July 30, 2022

in Music,Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


In their 25+ years as a fourteen member full “little orchestra,” Pink Martini has established a reputation for clever, daring, sophisticated and delightful music. The San Francisco Symphony provided an excellent opportunity for Pink Martini to perk up a news-weary public with some much needed color and sunshine. Did they deliver? Like a double rainbow. Whether it’s blending Samba with Schubert or setting “Puff the Magic Dragon” to Japanese, Pink Martini’s musical proficiency and stylistic dexterity yielded surprising and thoroughly engaging songs. SFS amplified Pink Martini’s music with crisp, tender, and supple support. Bandleader Thomas Lauderdale was a knockout on the piano, but so was his amazing partner Hunter Noack, whose new album In A Landscape was released in June. The two pounded the keys together with a 10-minute version of Ravel’s Bolero that stunned and amused the crowd. China Forbes, Lauderdale’s Harvard classmate, has been the lead vocalist since the group was founded in 1994, and still sounds sensational. (Ironically, Conductor Edwin Outwater was also a classmate). Both Forbes and NPR’s weekend host and resident crooner, sexy Ari Shapiro, who played a cad swooning Forbes, sounded great. Special Guest vocalist Jimmie Herrod brought the house down with his rendition of “Tomorrow” from Annie. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time.

Summer at the San Francisco Symphony doesn’t get any hotter than playing host to the incomparable Bernadette Peters. Her performance on July 30 was bedazzling. At 74, Ms. Peters looks fantastic. She hit the stage running wearing a champagne-colored Bob Mackie gown and launched right into song and dance. She worked the stage with “There is Nothing Like a Dame” from South Pacific. Crawling atop the piano she gave a sultry rendition of Peggy Lee’s “Fever”. Being a huge fan and protégé of the late great Stephen Sondheim, she gave him his due by belting out many of his classics from Follies, Company & A Little Night Music. Her melancholic version of “Send in the Clowns” was vulnerable and tear-inducing. Towards the end of the show, she brought the house down with songs from Hello Dolly! (she starred as Dolly Gallagher Levy in a Broadway production). It was a privilege for the audience to spend the evening in the company of a true legend.

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