Theater News

Sentimental Journey

JAN PETERS takes John Amodeo on a sentimental journey.

Jan Peters
Jan Peters

In this information age when the demands for instant communication and cutting-edge technology seems to govern everything we do, it is refreshing, even essential, to have an opportunity to retreat to what we may remember as simpler times. Jan Peters offers us just such an opportunity, gathering a varied collection of material appealing to the most basic human instincts of love, sentimentality, and humor, at once both stimulating and soothing.

In her recent outing at the Club Café with her show Old Fashioned, Please!, Peters set just the right tone for the evening, opening with the lovely Gershwin chestnut, “Our Love is Here to Stay.” In this song of unabashed reassurance, Peters exhibited the kind of precise phrasing, rich line readings, and lovely vocal shadings we have come to expect from this seasoned professional.

Not surprising considering the show’s title, Peters lavished us with a number of lovely romantic pieces that showed us not much has changed in the love and romance departments over the past century. In “Blue Moon,” Rodgers and Hart’s paean to loneliness, Peters ever so tunefully crooned her way through Rodgers’ lush melody and Hart’s wonderfully wistful lyrics. Switching to Rodgers’ more optimistic lyricist, Peters waxed hopeful on the subject of marriage in the classic “Mr. Snow” from Carousel. She became her most reflective, however, in a slightly more jaded view of love in “The Lies of Handsome Men,” by contemporary songwriter Francesca Blumenthal. Throughout, Peters used her smooth-as-silk voice and sense of rhythm not just as an end unto itself, but as a means to convey every nuance of meaning in each lyric.

During the most sentimental part of her show, Peters treated us to stories of how she sees her own childhood mirrored in the upbringing of her nieces and nephews, segueing beautifully into the playful “I Remember Sunday Morning,” by Nick Santa Maria. Without skipping a beat, Peters continued into a straight arrangement of The Judd’s country tune “Grandpa,” by Jamie O’Hara. You could hear a pin drop as she asked “Grandpa, tell me about the good old days. Did families really bow their heads to pray? Did daddies really never go away?” A pro at taking us wherever she is going, Peters turned the mood around with her own grandpa’s story of having always hated the last day of summer, which tolled the close of the baseball season, followed appropriately by “There Used to be a Ballpark,” by Joe Raposo.

If you have ever been to see Peters perform, you would know that even in a show entitled “Old Fashioned, Please,” Peters would not be confined to tender romantic ballads. Possessing a sharp wit and disarming sense of humor, Peters had people rolling in the aisles with a riotous version of David Friedman’s “My Simple Christmas Wish.” Here, listing the demands of a disgruntled Mrs. Claus, Peters churned herself into a chaotic frenzy which all but raised the roof, after which she confessed, “That felt so damned good.” Later in the show, Peters hit the mark again with another comic zinger, “Your Will,” by Boston songwriter Ernie Lijoi.

Peters has worked with many musical directors over the past few years, but recently Tom La Mark, one of Boston’s premier bandleaders and jazz pianists, has been her piano man. Together they created wonderfully integrated musical moments, where singing and accompaniment blended seamlessly. Using his arranging skills to the hilt, La Mark provided Peters with a rousing rendition of “Shine on Harvest Moon” that just wouldn’t quit. Peters, who had used her considerable vocal power very judiciously thus far, pulled out all the stops in this full-throttle arrangement, reminding us that she really has pipes. While in swing mode, the pair concluded the evening with a lively pairing of Rodgers and Hart’s “Sing for Your Supper” and the Ruby/Bloom tune “Give Me the Simple Life,” bringing us full circle in her tour of the old days.

In these days of premeditated encores, it was a particular joy to witness a show where an encore was not just expected, but required–or the audience would wreak havoc. Peters left her room with the well-chosen Johnny Mercer/Jerome Kern gem “I’m Old Fashioned,” a musical confession that surprised absolutely no one who saw this gem of a show. If you find yourself wishing you could drop back for an hour or so, returning to those simple, carefree bygone days of love and romance, then simply take in Peters’ next show. And remember to turn off your cell phone.

Jan Peters can be seen regularly at The Encore Lounge every Friday evening with John O’Neil. She will also be appearing as part of the Cabaretfest! weekend celebration in Provincetown with cabaret singers Ida Zecco and Michelle Currie on Saturday, May 6, at 10pm at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts. Tickets are $12. For information, call John O’Neil/At Last Productions at 617-232-1804, or click here for the website.